Metal fabrication shops come in all shapes and sizes. Some are large and industrious, cutting thousands of parts every day. And some are very small, fabricating only a few pieces each day. There is no right or wrong size metal fabrication shop; it just depends on your unique needs. But, one important thing that a metal fabrication shop of any size must do is manage CNC plasma cutter fumes. When fabricating metal and other materials with a CNC plasma torch there will be a large amount of fumes produces. Those fumes will accumulate and should not be breathed in day in and day out – it is simply not healthy or safe. In fact, inhaling fumes is so unsafe that there are actually OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards to which metal fabrication shops must adhere to protect their employees. TheFabricator elaborates on the health risks associated with plasma fumes and why proper ventilation is important, “Whether you are working with mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, galvanized, or another material, the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is a good starting point for identifying health risks. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established permissible exposure limits (PELs) based on an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) for hundreds of dusts, including the numerous metal dusts generated in plasma cutting. Hexavalent chromium, or hex chrome, is a carcinogenic substance that is a byproduct of cutting stainless steel and other metals that contain chromium. Hex chrome overexposure can result in short-term lung, eye, or skin irritations. The greatest long-term health danger associated with hex chrome exposure is lung cancer. Other major health effects include damage to the upper respiratory system and dermatitis. Respiratory tract problems can include inhalation damage to mucus membranes, perforation of septum tissue between the nostrils of the nose, and lung damage… Zinc oxide is a pollutant generated by hot work on galvanized steel. Exposure can result in a condition known as metal fume fever, a short-term illness in which severe flu-like symptoms occur after a break from work, such as over the weekend or during a vacation… Manganese, which is present in some steel alloys, can cause workers to feel exhausted, apathetic, weak, or headachy. Chronic overexposure to fumes containing manganese leads to a condition known as manganism, which is characterized by neurological and neurobehavioral health problems. ” Needless to say, cutting corners when it comes to ventilation and filtration of fumes is not worth the risk.
Whether cutting metals or coated metals, the cutting process will give off fumes. But, cutting coated metals will give off additional toxic fumes that are particularly dangerous. For this reason, it is important that any metal fabrication shop have proper ventilation as well as an exhaust hood or suction system of some kind. This will keep the breathing zone safe and clear of dangerous fumes. Ventilation will remove fumes, dust and particles. Further, some fabrication shops opt for a downdraft system which consists of a fun that sucks the air out of the shop and removes it via a vent to the outside or into an air-filtration system that recycles the air. Other shops opt for a water table which consists of a shallow table of water into which sparks, fumes, dust and particles are forced and then filtered out during the cutting process. Whatever you choose, it is important to ensure that your fabrication shop practices proper safety to protect the health of employees.