Protecting workers from dangerous levels of welding fumes and gases

Could you be at risk?

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has reclassified mild welding fumes as a potential human carcinogen and, new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer discovered that prolonged exposure to mild steel welding fumes can cause lung cancer and possible kidney cancer in humans. Meanwhile, short-term exposure can result in nausea, dizziness, or eye, nose and throat irritation.

Each year around 3,000 people working in construction report breathing and lung problems they believe were caused, or made worse, by their work environment. Over exposure to the following could increase your risk of lung cancer:

  • Chromium (VI) compounds
  • Diesel engine exhaust
  • Silica dust and crystalline silica
  • Welding fumes
  • Asbestos
  • Arsenic and inorganic arsenic compounds
  • Chemicals used in rubber manufacturing, iron and steel founding and painting
  • Some nickel compounds

How to avoid prolonged exposure

Here are our top tips to ensure you and your colleagues are as safe as possible when it comes to welding in the workplace:

Get your head out of the clouds

  • Plan welding sequences that will allow welders to work in a position where they are not directly breathing in the fume cloud

Ensure good ventilation

  • Where possible, use local exhaust ventilation (LEV) systems [see article] for indoor welding activities. Be sure to keep exhaust ports away from other workers

Work upwind

  • Staying upwind will help to avoid welding fumes when working in open or outdoor areas. However, keep in mind that this doesn’t guarantee safe ventilation and there is no known safe level of exposure to welding fume.

When LEV is not available, or you or your colleagues are unable to work outside, the safest way of working to avoid exposure to welding fumes is to use Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) - although this should be considered as a last resort. 

Get in touch with our hygiene specialists

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Ben Massey

Business Development - Occupational Health & Hygiene +44 (0) 1235 437 100 EMAIL
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Milton Keynes | UK
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Matt Bates

Technical Director - Occupational Hygiene +44 (0) 1235 437 100 EMAIL
Milton Keynes | UK
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Tracey Bailey

Business Development Manager - Occupational Hygiene +44 1235 437 100 EMAIL
Milton Keynes | UK

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