The British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) has issued a Safety Alert highlighting the hazards from welding fume. It explains the hazard and recommends safe behaviour through identifying suitable safety information, appropriate engineering controls and the use of personal protective equipment to manage any residual risk.
Metal welding, both arc and gas, cutting and allied processes produce a variety of hazards, both to those directly involved and those in the surrounding area. Obvious dangers exist such as a fire hazard; the handling and use of compressed, fuel and shielding gases; solvents and material handling. However, there is a significant unseen hazard from the fumes produced. This Safety Alert highlights the potentially fatal consequences in both the short and long term that welding fume can present.
The content of fumes can be either asphyxiating or toxic. According to HSE estimates, some 12,000 people die in the UK each year from long latency health issues, ie disease caused over a long period. Of these approximately 4,000 are caused by lung disease with 3,000 attributed to COPD. Many of these will have been at least partly caused by occupational
The document advises that a suitable and sufficient risk assessment must be undertaken before any welding activity. The risk assessment shall identify the hazard from welding fume, identify who may be affected and then require adequate controls to manage any welding fume that is produced. Welders should be provided with suitable instruction, information and training on the hazards of welding fume and the health benefits of always welding with appropriate controls in place.
The full guidance is available here.
British Compressed Gases Association September 2021