Without safety measures in place, exposure to welding fumes can cause lung cancer and is associated with kidney and bladder cancer. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from welding can also cause melanoma.
In 2017, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organisation that coordinates and conducts research into the causes of human cancer, determined there was enough evidence to upgrade the carcinogenic status of welding fumes and, for the first time, to classify UV radiation.
- reclassified the carcinogenic status of welding fumes from Group 2B Carcinogen (possibly carcinogenic to humans) to Group 1 Carcinogen (carcinogenic to humans).
- classified UV radiation emitted during welding as a Group 1 Carcinogen.
Safe Work Australia published a Code of Practice on Welding Processes (CoP). The CoP details how a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), and workers, can effectively manage welding hazards such as fumes and radiation. The CoP also includes information on control measures such as ventilation, personal protective equipment (PPE) and maintenance of equipment.
- Consult with workers and provide information and instruction on the new findings and updated health risks.
- Consult with workers to develop and implement risk controls and health monitoring requirements.
- Employ higher level controls where welding activities are undertaken.
- Review current workplace risk assessments, controls and current PPE requirements using updated safety data sheets (SDS) and any available technical information from suppliers.
- Contact us on 13 10 50 for more information.
Where possible, eliminate the need for welding.
To prevent exposure to fumes and UV radiation, you should also:
- Weld in ventilated isolation booths.
- Substitute welding processes where practicable (eg use submerged arc welding instead of flux-core wire welding or use low fume/less hazardous welding rods).
- Use engineering controls to capture and remove fumes, gases and vapours (eg downdraft booths, on-tool extraction guns).
- Locate welding operations away from other workers (eg use screens, curtains, or distance from other work stations, aisles, or walkways).
- Clean base metals to reduce fume generation (oils, greases, mill scale, and solvents).
- Encourage job rotation and/or job sharing.
- Use the right PPE (eg respiratory protection and a welding helmet with the correct side shields and filter, for other workers nearby; safety glasses with UV protective side shields).
- Train workers in the correct fit, use and maintenance of PPE.
- Do regular air monitoring.
Speak up if you have concerns about exposure to welding fumes and UV radiation. Talk to your employer, supervisor or us on 13 10 50.
- Safe Work Australia: Code of Practice- Welding Processes
- AS/NZS 1715:2009 - Selection, use and maintenance of Respiratory Protective Equipment.
- AS/NZS 1716: 2112 – Respiratory Protective Devices.
- Fume Minimisation Guidelines published by the Welding Technology Institute of Australia
- Health and Safety in Welding, WTIA Technical Note No. 7, published by the Welding Technology Institute of Australia
- Welding Electrical Safety, WTIA Technical Note No. 22, published by the Welding Technology Institute of Australia