Environmental, Health and Safety Services

Health Hazards


There are many health effects associated with welding and cutting operations, including fumes from heating various metals, gases generated during the processes, gases used in the processes, and contaminants released from paint coatings. All metals, electrodes, and gases used in welding and cutting processes must be included in the department's Hazard Communication Plan.

One common illness related to welding and cutting is Metal Fume Fever. Flu-like symptoms may be experienced, such as coughing, fever, chills, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. Once the person has been removed from the exposure, recovery generally occurs without intervention withing 24 to 48 hours. Other adverse health effects associated with welding and cutting are specific to the source, such as the metal involved, shielding gases used, coatings that may be present, or gases generated during the process.

  • Metals: Whenever metal is heated, fumes are released. Fumes are breathed in by the welder/cutter and may result in acute or chronic adverse health effects. Many metals are regulated by OSHA and have a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), which an employee must not exceed. For more information, click here.
  • Gases Used: Common gases used in welding/cutting include acetylene, argon, carbon dioxide, helium, hydrogen, and MAPP gas. These gases are either flammable or inert. Always consult the Material Safety Data Sheet for the specific gases used. For general information on compressed gases, click here.
  • Coatings: Coatings, such as paint, on metal may contain a variety of contaminants, such as lead, chromium, and zinc. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) should always be reviewed to identify hazards and recommended controls prior to removal.
  • Gases Generated: Welding and cutting processes generate a number of contaminants, such as carbon monoxide, fluorides, nitrogren dioxide, and ozone that may adversely effect employee health.


Appropriate and effective ventilation is the most important engineering control for eliminating or sufficiently reducing potential exposure to toxic substances, such as welding fumes. For more information, click here.

Hazard Monitoring

If engineering controls are being used, such as effective ventilation or non-hazardous metals, electrodes, coatings, etc., exposure is not expected. However, if engineering controls are not functioning properly, have not been employed, or do not appear to be sufficient, air monitoring may be warranted. EHSS offers hazard monitoring for welding and cutting applications.

Occupational Health Assurance Program

Employees exposed to welding and cutting fumes may be required to enroll in EHSS's Occupational Health Assurance Program. The Occupational Health Assurance Program (OHAP) was established by Environmental, Health and Safety Services (EHSS) in 1981 to comply with regulations that require medical surveillance for employees exposed to occupational health hazards. Employees at risk are provided medical examinations, laboratory analysis, or immunizations as required by the regulations. These services are provided at no cost to employees and participation is during normal business hours, whenever possible.