Ann Occup Hyg. 2015 Jan;59(1):116-21. doi: 10.1093/annhyg/meu070. Epub 2014 Sep 22.
Shipbuilding involves intensive welding activities within enclosed and confined spaces, and although ventilation is commonly used in the industry, its use and effectiveness has not been adequately documented. Workers engaged in welding in enclosed or confined spaces in two shipyards were observed for their use of ventilation and monitored for their exposure to particulate matter. The type of ventilation in use, its placement and face velocity, the movement of air within the space, and other ventilation-related parameters were recorded, along with task characteristics such as the type of welding, the welder’s position, and the configuration of the space. Mechanical ventilation was present in about two-thirds of the 65 welding scenarios observed, with exhaust ventilation used predominantly in one shipyard and supply blowers predominantly in the other. Welders were observed working in apparent dead-spaces within the room in 53% of the cases, even where ventilation was in use. Respiratory protection was common in the two shipyards, observed in use in 77 and 100% of the cases. Welding method, the proximity of the welder’s head to the fume, and air mixing were found to be significantly associated with the welder’s exposure, while other characteristics of dilution ventilation did not produce appreciable differences in exposure level. These parameters associated with exposure reduction can be assessed subjectively and are thus good candidates for training on effective ventilation use during hot work in confined spaces. Ventilation used in confined space welding is often inadequate for controlling exposure to welding fume.