Most metal fabricators were aware that welding fume control equipment had to be in place as of May 31 of this year in order to meet the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's hexavalent chromium [CR(VI)] standard. While not pleased that they may have been forced to purchase additional ventilation equipment, fabricators at least had the reassurance that they were taking steps to protect their welders from potentially dangerous fumes.
I wonder how those same metal fabricators would feel about spending money on equipment to save the atmosphere. The early results don't reveal too many happy campers.
As of July 25, 2011, metal fabricators that are welding metals that contain cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, or nickel will have to supply the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with acknowledgements that they have completed testing of emissions and completed the required paperwork detailing exactly what "pollutants" are being released into the atmosphere. Metal fabricators now have to worry about the outside air, not just the air their welders breathe.
I asked fabricators who happened to receive the "Fabricating Update" e-newsletter what they thought and the responses didn't reveal a lot of support for the initiative.
- "We are in the process of complying with these standards. We have completed our testing for chromium VI and we are OK there. We just learned of the other requirements this week. We had a visit from the EPA representative in our area. He is a very nice person, but I have a feeling that we are in for a long ride."
- "I'm tired of being treated as public enemy No. 1 because I work for a living."
- "I think the EPA and many other government bureaucrats are completely over-stepping their bounds and need to be reeled in. They are intentionally regulating manufacturing to death in this country, and most of it is based on pop-science."
Based on the request of one respondent who asked not to be identified because he didn't want his company to become a "target" of the EPA, I didn't attach any names to the quotes.
It's not difficult to sympathize with their plight. Since man first struck a hot piece of iron with a hammer, the best way to control indoor air quality was to leave the front door open. The atmosphere is awfully big and seemingly could accommodate a small amount of welding fumes.
But the EPA doesn't think so and wants fabricating shops of all sizes to get a handle on just what they are emitting into the environment. While the goal is understandable, the execution of this is going to be a nightmare for shops that really don't need to undertake one more activity that doesn't add direct value to their metal-fabricated products.
For those wondering what's in store for them, the Lincoln Electric Co. has a good Web site that walks fabricators through the new requirements.
Luckily, metal fabricators do have time to figure out how they can meet these new EPA regulations. The fear is that they might decide they don't want to do anything to meet them.
"Some of our competitors have just stopped fabricating anything that involves chromium," one metal fabricator wrote.