Galvanized welding

I’m easily impressed with welding and welders. Welding looks so simple, yet hard, dangerous and permanent.

When interviewing your welder, here are some questions to ask:weld1

  • What type of welding are you doing?
  • What type of metal do you weld on? (mild steel, stainless, galvanized)
  • Is there any coating on the metal?
  • What type of flux is used?
  • Where do you weld?, and then, “Where else?”
  • Is there any ventilation in the area you weld?
  • Are there any flammables in the area?
  • Do you wear any PPE when welding? (ear plugs, respirator, leather)
  • When do you use fall protection?
  • Do you have & use welding shields?

What makes welding so difficult is the number of variables involved. The welding variables can change by the minute. Educate your employees on these dangers.

After the above questions, if the employee is agreeable, I ask some additional questions. These are the ones that provoke the best stories:

  • What is the strangest things you’ve welded?
  • Have you ever welding in a really small (confined) area?
  • Have you ever welded with exotic metals? fluxes?
  • What’s the worst thing you’ve welded on?
  • Have you ever gotten sick from welding?

There are many, many more questions to be asked depending on the answers. The authority on this subject, Michael Harris, has written an excellent book on this subject, “Welding Health and Safety“(ISBN 978-1-931504-28-7). It is available from AIHA. It is VERY detailed, and money well spent if you do welding. I have taken his short course (all day) and I learned more than I ever thought possible, and I still can’t even weld!


In construction there may be a time when employees need to weld on galvanized metal. This poses a unique problem since the zinc oxide fume can cause metal fume fever.  Should employees wear a respirator? Should mechanical ventilation be used? Should they drink milk? before? during and after welding? 

As with my answers to all welding types:  it depends.

However, I will make some generalizations. I have not seen a lot, or high airborne exposures (to zinc oxide) during galvanized steel welding. But, I typically recommend that welders are prepared and ready to wear a respirator if the need occurs. Welding is so variable, it is hard to make generalizations that cover all aspects.

Some questions that I ask before issuing respirators include:

  • Does the welder have experience and training with this type of welding?
  • How long will the welding occur?
  • Is it spot welding? or for a duration of time?
  • Is there mechanical ventilation in place, and can it be used for the entire project?
  • Is there any portion of the welding that will be in a confined area with limited ventilation?
  • Are there any coatings on the metal? Lubricants?

Once a respirator is decided to be issued, I only recommend a 1/2 face tight fitting respirator with HEPA filters. I know that N95 and other types of filtering dust masks do provide protection, but they, in my opinion, are not adequate if you really need them.

And, as far as drinking milk. If you feel sick after welding- drink it. It won’t hurt.