Regardless of the welding process that an operation selects, maintaining the appropriate safety procedures is critical. From wearing the proper welding helmet to other personal protective equipment —flame-resistant gloves, a long-sleeved jacket and appropriate footwear —each item keeps workers safe from the heat and electricity generated by the arc. It also helps to maintain a higher level of comfort, making it easier for the welders to operate for longer periods of time.

Providing welding operators with the proper ventilation during the welding process is essential, too. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other safety regulatory bodies have established standards for the levels of allowable exposure limits of welding fumes and other particulates (including hexavalent chromium.)  For some companies, using a fume-extraction gun (in conjunction with a fume-extraction device or filtration system) is a viable option for maintaining compliance with these regulations and keeping welding operators safe and comfortable.

Fume-extraction guns are available in a variety of amperages (typically 300 to 600), cable styles and handle designs, and like all welding equipment, they have their best applications, advantages and limitations.

Fume-extraction guns are especially beneficial for welding in confined spaces, where the goal is to capture fumes immediately at the source —in the welding operator’s breathing zone. Industries where these applications occur include heavy equipment manufacturing and shipbuilding. General manufacturing and fabrication applications with mild or carbon steel may also present the opportunity to use a fume-extraction gun, as can petrochemical operations, or other applications where stainless steel welding and greater hexavalent chromium levels are likely. The guns work well on high amperage and high deposition rate applications, too.

Some companies choose fume-extraction guns with a localized filtration system in lieu of a more intricate and expensive centralized fume-extraction system, which involves the installation of ductwork throughout the shop area.

Regardless of the application, it’s a good idea to modify other aspects of the welding operation (filler metals, base material, transfer methods, etc.) to help minimize fume rates. Doing so adds to the safety and comfort of the welder that starts with a fume-extraction gun.