Industry, government and statutory bodies are working together to ensure that appropriate strategies are in place to reduce welder exposure to fumes and prevent long-term health effects.

Established by Weld Australia in early 2019, the Welding Safety Council provides a forum for industry and legislative safety authorities to discuss safety issues and work collaboratively to identify solutions.

The Welding Safety Council is an independent body, made up of key government stakeholders, statutory bodies and industry leaders and is focused on eradicating welding related injury. With that as a goal the Australian welding industry continues to take significant steps forward in protecting both the general public and welders.

Recent media coverage has raised the issue of lowering the limit for exposure to welding fumes. In recent years, the welding industry has become increasingly aware of the hazards posed by metal fume produced during the welding process. This fume, comprising of microscopic particles of hot metal and gases, poses serious risks when inhaled by welders.

In early 2017, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classed welding fumes as ‘Carcinogenic to Humans’. However, when appropriate precautions are adhered to, risk of exposure is greatly minimised.

According to Geoff Crittenden (CEO, Weld Australia), “Welding can and should be considered a safe occupation; when proper precautions are taken, welders have no cause to fear accident or injury. But when safety isn’t taken seriously in the workplace, the risk of a severe incident becomes a real concern.

“It is vital that appropriate strategies are in place to reduce welder exposure to fumes and prevent the long-term health effects that can result from exposure.

 “Education is the key to ensuring a safe and productive working environment for everyone. Employers need to invest in thorough and up-to-date training for all their employees to ensure that they understand the risks associated with welding, the mitigation strategies they can use, and the equipment available to prevent accident and injury.” 

All workplaces should have fit-for-purpose LEV (local exhaust ventilation) systems installed and regularly maintained. Powered air purifying respirators (PAPR) are also a proven method to minimise the welder’s exposure to welding fume in conformance with WHS regulations.

Initiatives to Improve Welder Safety

In collaboration with industry, Weld Australia has implemented a range of other initiatives to help improve welder safety.

Weld Australia has published a wide range of welding safety resources, that are available to the public completely free of charge. These include:

  • Fume Minimisation Guidelines: Welding; Cutting; Brazing; and Soldering, which includes all the information required to help protect workers from the hazards associated with welding fumes.
  • Technical Note 7: Health and Safety in Welding, which gives guidance on health and safety practices in welding, cutting and allied processes such as brazing, soldering, pre- and post- weld material treatments and metal spraying, for the prevention of injury, ill health and discomfort, as well as damage to property, equipment and environment by fire, and explosion.

Weld Australia is currently developing two comprehensive online welder safety training courses. One course is tailored for welders, while the other is aimed at welding engineers and supervisors.

These courses will be completed towards the end of this year and made freely available via the Weld Australia website.

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