Based on overwhelming feedback from the welding industry, Safe Work Australia has decided against removing the workplace exposure limit (WEL) for welding fume, according to welding equipment supplier AWS.
Originally, it made sense to remove the WEL for welding fume not otherwise classified because it was already measured for the individual constituents within welding fume; eg. manganese, chromium, etc. Especially when many of the WELs for the individual constituents are far lower than the WEL for welding fume.
However, many questioned if the combination of chemicals over a certain level is not dangerous to health? Is there research to back this up? So, the other side of the debate was to not remove it but to rather invest in the research to understand what this WEL should be.
The concern was also the removal of the WEL for welding fume would send the wrong message to the industry. Even though this action was being proposed because welding fume is dangerous to health, it could be seen as the exact opposite for those who do not read into the reasons and research behind the decision.
With the ultimate goal of protecting the health of welders and workers, while removing the WEL would not change the status quo with air monitoring, it runs the risk of sending the wrong message. Investing in research and looking to other countries like Germany and the Netherlands that have lower WELs for welding fume and rolling out a lower WEL for welding fume in Australia would send a clear message to the industry that welding fume is serious and action is required.