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How to Safely Weld with Stainless Steel

Working with Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a strong, durable, anti-bacterial, rust proof, and versatile iron-based alloy. These days it is used for a wide range of applications across multiple industries. As a high-quality high-performance material, it is no wonder that stainless steel is a popular choice of metal amongst welders worldwide.

Due to its versatility and durability stainless steel is used extensively in many manufacturing applications, particularly in the construction and motor industry often requires stainless steel to be welded together. However, welding stainless steel has been proved to be hazardous for human health because of the carcinogenic fumes that are produced whilst welding it.

Welding with stainless steel can be done through multiple processes. No matter which way you work on your stainless steel it is imperative that you know the welding hazards that can arise when working with this material.

The production of stainless steel requires the use of chromate chemicals which leave traces in the final product, and during welding, the chromate chemicals convert into “Hexavalent Chromium” compounds. These compounds are highly toxic and have the potential to cause cancer. Different manufacturers use different chromate chemicals or compounds; therefore, most stainless-steel produces chromium compound fumes.

In order to reap the benefits of working with stainless steel and produce the perfect end result you must first do everything you can in order to minimise these potential safety risks to avoid illness, injury, and possibly even death.

The best way to weld stainless steel is to do so safely, that’s why we’ve put together all the information you need to do so below.

Why is Health and Safety So Important?

Failing to follow safety procedures when working with stainless steel will cost you in more ways than one.

From lower productivity due to poor working conditions, to employee illness. Time off and compensation, to brand reputation, high turnover, and most unfortunately, loss of life.

Not only does implementing safety procedures keep you and your workers healthy and happy but it is important that your workshop meets all safety compliance standards and guidelines.

Australia’s Welding Processes Code

This downloadable PDF from safe work Australia was created to help employers and employees in managing the health effects of welding procedures.

The document outlines the legal requirements for all businesses covered by the WHS act. All businesses where welding is carried out need to comply with this code in order to operate safely and avoid any illness, injury, or hefty fines.

Airborne Contaminants Exposure Limits

This is another important document and downloadable PDF from safe work Australia that explains the exposure limits and standards surrounding airborne contaminants. Something which is crucial to one’s safety when welding any material let alone stainless steel.

This details everything from who these standards apply to and what duties they possess to meanings of key terms, monitoring exposure, units for exposure standards, and a full list of the exposure standards themselves.

Amongst a range of other safety precautions, the most crucial thing a welder can look out for is the inhalation of dangerous gasses and fumes. This is a natural part of the welding process however, by familiarising yourself with these guidelines, it does not need to become a rust to the health and safety of those around you.

What are the Signs & Symptoms to Look Out For?

Chromium fumes are a known human carcinogen which makes most welders at risk of developing cancer. Traditionally stainless steel is welded by Tig welding (Tungsten Inert Gas) however MIG welding (Metal Inert Gas) method is becoming a common means to weld stainless steel and generally produces a lot of visible fumes during the welding process. FCAW & MMA welding processes tend to produce highly visible fume content as well.

As a result, welders can tend not to be as careful enough when they weld stainless steel, thereby exposing themselves to unseen welding fume carcinogens.

The dangers of welding stainless steel that arise from poor safety practice can be acute and sometimes short term depending on exposure, however many of them pose chronic and long term health risks.

Whether absorbed through the skin or respiratory system the particles and fumes released by stainless steel can wreak havoc on the human body in a range of ways.

These health hazards are not to be taken lightly. While some symptoms seem minor and others may take time to present, all of them need to be taken seriously as they are often life threatening.

The large amounts of chromium fumes they inhale or come into contact with can lead to several diseases, including the following:

  • Lung, Nasal or Sinus Cancer

  • Nasal & Respiratory Irritation

  • Pulmonary Congestion

  • Eye Damage

  • Organ Damage

  • Occupational Asthma

  • Skin Dermatitis

  • Nosebleed

These diseases and health concerns can be extensive or difficult to treat, anyone affected may become severely debilitated as a result of not taking adequate measures of control, and they may need to take lengthy time off to recuperate with the risk losing out permanently on health or income and the ability to work. Any business will suffer as a result not respecting that there is a duty of care to themselves and their employees.  

It is imperative to ensure that all welders understand the consequences of welding stainless steel without protective measures so that they are proactive in protecting themselves and their co-workers. Be aware of the risks, with today's technology there is no longer any excuse for ignorance. Safety has priority. 

What are the Contributing Factors to These Health Hazards?

Welding with stainless steel when done in a safe environment with all the necessary safety precautions, does not need to be a dangerous task.

A great way to effectively minimise the potential health hazards is by knowing what the contributing factors are, how they can exacerbate conditions and risks and how they can be controlled.


Your welding workshop should always be set up and designed in a way that optimises the safety of all those who work in the space. A workshop needs to have adequate ventilation. This can be by way of fixed extraction machines of local extractors too. Ventilation is a key factor in safely welding stainless steel.

Alphaweld Supply Group offers a wide range of fume and dust extractor equipment to help you keep your workplaces safe and well ventilated.


Often steel can be coated or galvanized in other materials. The coating on your metal can pose a serious health risk if not removed prior to welding. If the coating is not removed and fumes are released you may suffer from metal fume fever. In other instances steel coated in paint can also lead to harmful poisoning as chemical fumes are released during the welding process. Before you begin working with any material it is important to know what it is coated with and the risks associated. Always sand, grind, or dissolve any exterior coatings in areas you need to weld before you begin.


When it comes to stainless steel welding there are multiple ways you can go about it. Whether you choose MIG or TIG welding processes, both pose risks but both can be completely harmless if the proper precautions are put in place.

TIG welding by contrast generally does not produce as much visible fume as MIG welding but nonetheless it is in no way less hazardous in fact often worse as the visible effect of welding fume is much less. TIG welding produces the least amount of visible fume but it does produce significant amounts of ozone and nitrous oxide both of which are also irritants. 

TIG welding can also give off harmful UV light that can seriously damage the eyes and skin. It is also important to be careful when working with electricity in TIG welding as doing so incorrectly can result in electric shock.

Recognising Risks and Steps to Hazard Minimisation

Knowing the risks associated with stainless steel welding is one thing, however it is imperative to know how to control and minimise these risks too. The diagram below outlines the hierarchy of risk control. From most effective to least effective the steps that should be taken are outlined and explained.

How to Safely Weld with Stainless Steel | Alphaweld

What Safety Precautions Should You Put in Place?


The most common method for workers is to wear protective gear, covering themselves from head to toe. The main elements of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for welders are protective welding jackets, welding helmets, respirators, ear protection, boots, and gloves. A welding helmet is absolutely essential to protect welders from inhaling carcinogenic fumes and sparks during welding. Welders must have a respirator or better still a PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator) welding helmet such a Speedglas or RPB system to avoid inhaling welding fumes. Any ventilator should be well fitting so that no fumes can penetrate. RPB Z4 Welding Helmet is especially designed to allow for facial hair. (Did you know that facial hair growth from a single shift could be enough to break the seal of a tight-fitting respirator?)


A fume extractor is a welders best friend! In some instances local extraction machines can be used in the welders breathing vicinity to eliminate and contain harmful fumes. In larger areas fixed systems can be installed to extract and ventilate large areas, even giving the option to have clean air filtered back into the building.

The most effective form of control in welding stainless steel is step number 1 which is elimination, remove the issue at the source is the most effective fume control measure. Fume extraction torches provide the step number one measure (MOST EFFECTIVE) by reducing the welder’s exposure to welding fumes by at least 90 to 95% at the arc source. Their development began in the 1970s, but soon acquired a negative reputation due to the ergonomics of the earlier torches being much heavier and very rigid leading to the loss of productivity also the suction of the shielding gas by the capture device causing weld porosities and insufficient capture efficiency.

Recent developments however namely with Sumig branded torches have done a lot to remove these negatives with a lighter and more flexible MIG torch that is extremely effective in removing  fumes at the source of the risk. Alphaweld has extensively site tested and demonstrated these torches in conjunction with an Allclear Portable Extraction System and is proud to be able to offer these as a premium step number 1 control measure. They effectively removed the fumes quickly without affecting the shielding gas and operator control was easy. The cost of purchasing this extraction torch package is well worth the outlay to help protect any welder from associated health conditions in welding stainless steel.


At Alphaweld Supply Group we are not only passionate about stocking your workshop with high quality supplies but also ensuring you are always able to work safe. If you’re looking for premium safety equipment, browse our extensive range or contact us today.