How we extract dangerous fumes from stainless steel welding at GEA

Exposure to welding fumes from stainless steel is a known health hazard. Efficient welding fume extraction is therefore essential to ensure the safety of employees. In this blog article, I will describe how we helped our customer GEA to reach regulatory compliance, clean air and increased production efficiency in their workshops.

GEA –  Multifaceted supplier of food processing and packaging equipment

GEA is a global supplier of process technology and packaging equipment for a wide range of industries, including the food industry. Their product range covers everything from individual, stand-alone machines to complete processing lines. One of the areas that GEA focuses on is dairy processing, and more specifically the design, engineering and manufacturing of complete production systems for different types of cheese.   

Health risks associated with welding on stainless steel 

At GEA’s factory in Bolsward, Netherlands, the manufacturing process of cheese making equipment involves welding of stainless steel. This particular type of welding creates fumes containing the hazardous chemical compound hexavalent chromium (chrome IV) which can cause asthma and lung cancer when inhaled. The regulations regarding welding fumes from stainless steel are therefore very strict. Normally, welding fumes should be extracted at their source to maximize capture efficiency. However, in GEA's case, the sheer size of their cheese manufacturing machines makes source extraction an unsuitable solution. To meet the regulations and thereby keep welders and other employees in the workshop protected from dangerous fumes, GEA needed an alternative solution.

Welding fume extraction in large areas with an air purification tower  

We, at Nederman, started by examining and mapping out the situation at the two workshops where stainless steel welding was performed. This included gathering information regarding, for example, the number of welders, the dimensions of the workshops and the amount of welding wire that was used. We then calculated the amount of welder fumes released per day. This, in turn, enabled us to decide on a suitable solution; the Air Purification Tower. The system consists of a compact cartridge filter with pulse cleaning for decentralized indoor air purification. It captures welding fumes as well as other particles and pollutants while the clean air is blown back at high speed into the workplace through adjustable nozzles.

Nederman’s technical team installed two units, one in each workshop. The installation and initial adjustments of the units’ nozzles took two days in total. After that, the air purification towers were up and running. Apart from the initial adjustments made by Nederman, the system only requires that GEA’s employees empty the waste container once in a while. Other than that, no daily maintenance is needed. Once per year, Nederman’s service technicians visit the workshops and check the units’ fans and nozzles and measure their airflow to ensure optimal functionality.   

Regulatory compliance, clean air and increased production efficiency 

Implementing the system made GEA compliant to the strict regulations for welding fumes in the Netherlands, but it has also had other important and positive effects. Before the installation of the air purification tower, employees at GEA experienced various symptoms as a result of the contaminated air. Evaluations made after the systems were implemented showed that these problems had ended. Welders and other operators in the workshops stated that they felt much more energized and healthy after the workday. This was also reflected in production efficiency, which increased as a direct result of more alert and productive employees. 

In addition to the health benefits, the system is also contributing to a more sustainable production process by reducing energy use. Because the air purification tower is recirculating the air in the workshop, the clean air that is released back into the room is already heated. Also, since warm air rises, recirculating and moving it around helps create a homogeneous temperature in the workshop instead of it being unnecessary warm at the ceiling and having to increase the heating at the production floor. 

Experience of fume extraction in many different industries

We are glad to see the positive impact that the solution has had on GEA’s working environment and the production efficiency at the factory in Bolsward! Previous to this solution, Nederman provided a similar welding fume extraction system to GEA located in Den Bosch, Netherlands. With our expertise and growing experiences from a wide variety of industries, we continually develop our solutions to meet our customers’ evolving needs.  

If you are interested in how Nederman can help you create a clean workplace with sustainable production processes - get in touch with us, we are happy to help! Also, read more of our blog articles in our Knowledge Center