What Is Metal Fume Fever and How To Prevent It

What Is Metal Fume Fever and How To Prevent It

Working with metal is hazardous; it exposes employees to dangerous chemicals, machinery, and gasses, potentially leading to serious injury or illness. One of the most severe reactions to working with metal is metal fume fever, a condition that results in debilitating side effects. Be aware of what metal fume fever is and how to prevent it to protect yourself and your workers from preventable health complications.

What Is Metal Fume Fever?

When a metalworker cuts, welds, or burns metal, it creates fumes and airborne debris that can enter the lungs. Inhaling these substances can trigger an allergic reaction in the metalworker.

Most often, the metal responsible for this condition is zinc oxide; copper and magnesium can also cause fume fever. After inhaling the metallic fumes, symptoms start occurring three to ten hours after exposure.

The Side Effects

Some of the most common metal fume fever side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Gastrointestinal pains

How To Protect Workers

Fumes are a natural part of metalworking and shops can’t eliminate them completely, but there are ways to mitigate the effects. You must make sure the shop has adequate ventilation; allowing fumes to sit in the air only increases the potential for inhalation. Utilizing downdraft grinding tables significantly reduces worker exposure by vacuuming the fumes and pulling them down and away from your employees.

Wearing respirators also filters out the harmful toxins in the air, protecting workers and eliminating the danger of working so closely to the metal. However, your employees need to switch the air filters after they clog with material. Allowing workers to use old filters can expose them to fumes, as the filter won’t function as intended.

Implement Proper Safety Procedures

Knowing what metal fume fever is and how to prevent it is one of the most important pieces of information to have in a metal shop. You must have several methods to deal with the danger in case any single precaution fails. Metal fumes are always present inside a metal fabrication shop and you must know how to handle the threat.

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