Welding is one of the most versatile and varied occupations in the military. All branches of the military utilize welders in some capacity. While the Air Force and the Marine Corps require welders for some projects, the majority of welding occupations are found in the Army and the Navy.
- Equipment & vehicle repairs in field, working on bridges and other construction projects, structural repairs
- Army Underwater divers
- Recompression chamber operation and maintenance
- Underwater cutting and welding hydraulic tool operation
- Underwater ship husbandry
- Basic ship salvage
- Army Allied Trade Tech (91E)
- Fabrication & installation of metal products, such as roofs, air ducts, gutters, vents
- Repair structure of ships, submarines, landing craft, buildings, equipment, weapons
- Gas turbine motors
- Hull Technician
- Jet engine mechanic (tubular engine mounts, small parts)
- Damage controlman (Coast Guard)
- Aircraft Metals Technology (Air Force)
- Metal Worker on Combat Logistics (Marine Corps)
While welding may be one of the most common and versatile occupations, it is by no means one of the safest. In reality, welding fumes cause significant health problems, even after short exposure. Chronic exposure has permanently damaging results. In a previous blog post, we discussed COPD as caused by welding fumes. Here we will discuss other health concerns with welding fumes.
Research conducted in 2011 showed that workers exposed to welding fumes can ingest the fumes in three ways:
- Inhaling – virtually all welding fumes can be breathed in
- Ingesting – when workers eat with dirty hands and eat/drink contaminated foods or liquids
- Skin contact – some metals (such as beryllium, chromium and cobalt) can directly affect skin and cause irritation, or be absorbed through the skin through lacerations or other damage to the skin
Immediate/Short term exposures typically cause:
- Irritation of eyes, nose and throat
- Breathing difficulty
Chronic Exposures can cause:
- Lung cancer
- Skin conditions (dermatitis)
- Chronic breathing problems (such as COPD, bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, metal fume fever, emphysema)
- Internal organ damage (kidneys, digestive system)
- Bone and joint problems
- Central nervous system problems (Parkinsons)
Fumes and gases caused by welding have a wide range of effects on the body, depending on the duration of the exposure. Metal fume fever (a short-duration, flu-like condition) can occur within 4-8 hours of inhaling welding fumes/gases, particularly when welding galvanized metal. Metal fume fever is the most frequently observed acute respiratory illness of welders.
Furthermore, a study in 2005 contributed to the growing evidence that welding fume exposure can be associated with cardiovascular problems. In fact, several studies found that welders experience increased mortality due to ischemic heart disease. The 2005 study explained that chronic and systematic inflammation of the heart plays a major role in the pathogenesis of coronary heart disease. Welding fumes cause that kind of inflammation.