Spotlight on Safety – Welding Fumes

Welding & Cancer

A report on welding in the workplace from Cancer Council stated:

In early 2017, welding fume was reclassified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classification Group 2B (possibly carcinogenic to humans) to Group 1 (Carcinogenic to humans). Welding activities produce many hazards through the production of contaminants in welding fumes and ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the welding arc. Both of these are Group 1 carcinogens, meaning they can cause cancer in humans. Exposure to these fumes or UV radiation can increase your risk of developing melanoma of the eye, lung and other cancers.


Know the legislation

All Australian workplaces must follow work health and safety legislation, these vary slightly between states and territories but the duty of care for employers and responsibilities of workers across Australia is similar:

  • Employers are required to ensure the health and safety of their workers at their workplace.
  • Employers have a duty to control the risks associated with work.
  • Workers must take reasonable care of their own health and safety.
  • Workers must follow any reasonable instruction and workplace health and safety policies, of which they have been notified.

Controls to consider

VENTILATION A combination of local exhaust and forced dilution ventilation is best practice. A local exhaust system could be a duct system to move contaminant away from the work area or an exhaust fan to provide air flow. Forced dilution ventilation brings in clean air (forced air) to dilute the contaminated air and then exhausts the diluted air to the outside via exhaust fans. Natural ventilation should not be used as a control measure.

PPE Wear either air supplied or air purifying respiratory protection. They should be fitted for each worker.

ISOLATION Separate welding activities from other work jobs. Many workers welding in one space can increase welding fumes. Use welding screens to protect other workers from the welding arc. Where possible, automate welding activities.


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