Frequently Asked Questions on Welding Fume and Respiratory Protection!

Article By: Team AWS

We’ve always known welding fume isn’t good for you, so what’s new?

While it’s true that many welders have long been aware that inhaling welding fume can't be good for their health, this awareness is far from unanimous in the welding community. In fact, a recent survey we ran revealed that 37% of welders didn’t know welding fume had been officially reclassified as carcinogenic by the International Agency of Research on Cancer. So while it may feel repetitive to those in the know, educating your peers on the dangers of welding fume is more important now than ever.

Moreover, there is now reliable statistical analysis to back up what so many welders have always suspected. The 2020 Welding Fume Update looks into a 2019 study that, among other revelations, states that welders have a “43% increased risk of lung cancer”[1] compared to those who have never welded before. The fact that this link between welding fume exposure and cancer is now scientifically proven can play a major role in promoting meaningful change to better protect welders in Australia, New Zealand and around the world.

Read more on the current state of play in the 2020 Welding Fume Update

I’ve been welding unprotected for years… is it too late?

There’s no better time to act than the present! With more information now available on the dangers of welding fume and more effective PPE solutions than ever before, you can still preserve your long-term health by making informed decisions today around your welding respiratory protection.

Furthermore, upgrading your respiratory protection won’t just benefit you in the long run, but could also improve your day-to-day wellbeing. Welders who are now using a powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) for the first time in their careers say the increased protection has resolved many short-term health issues they’d previously experienced: migraines, dizziness and other nasty symptoms that come with overexposure to welding fume.

Hear a longtime welder talk about his first ever Speedglas Welding Helmet with PAPR!

Interested in upgrading to Powered Air? Here’s the Speedglas Welding Helmet range with Adflo PAPR

I’m just entering the trade… should I be worried?

We want to reassure the next generation of welders that, as long as the proper precautions are followed, welding can absolutely be a safe occupation. Think of it like scuba diving: you’d only consider doing it if you had the proper safety equipment.

The key to remember is that, while the risk is real, keeping yourself safe is simple! And if you’re unsure of where to begin, we have a comprehensive guide to protecting welders that includes relevant white papers, respiratory welding helmets and more: have a read below!

Learn more about welding fume and respiratory protection

Need help selecting suitable PPE? Get in touch and we can definitely help you out!

What about grinding dust?

Suitable respiratory protection is always a good idea whether you’re welding or grinding: in terms of the level of type of respiratory protection needed, however, this would depend on the material and/or contaminants present when grinding. While the 2020 Welding Fume Update does include a guide on which respiratory protection is appropriate for working with certain materials, we would suggest contacting your local Occupational Hygienist for more specific advice.

Find an Occupational Hygienist in your area here

How do I start a dialogue about respiratory protection with my employer?

Welders should firstly aim to be knowledgeable of both the risks and the available PPE solutions: from there you’ll be in a great position to discuss next steps with your employer.

Secondly, the 2020 Welding Fume Update outlines the employer’s primary responsibility to ensure their welders, as far as reasonably practicable, are not exposed to health and safety risks while on the job. Many Australian and New Zealand companies are now completely changing their stance on welders’ PPE, which indicates employers are receptive to collaborating with welders to find the best solution for their workplace.

If you’re looking to put your best foot forward when articulating the dangers of welding fume exposure, find the key statistics and resources via the below link.

Having trouble conveying the dangers of welding fume? Arm yourself with key facts here!

Where do things stand from a legislative standpoint?

As far as legislation is concerned, we understand that Safe Work Australia are in the process of reviewing all workplace exposure standards including those around welding fume.

Subscribe to updates from Safe Work Australia here

How come I know guys who seem healthy after welding unprotected for years?

This is not a reliable outcome of a career spent welding unprotected. On the contrary, given the link between welding fume exposure and lung cancer has now been legitimised, it stands to reason welders would want to do everything possible to ensure they are properly protected.

Ultimately, the consensus amongst experts is that welders should aim to be proactive in protecting themselves in order to remain in good health throughout their career and beyond.

[1] Honaryar MK, Lunn RM, Luce D, et al. Occup Environ Med, Welding Fume and lung cancer: a meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies, April 2019

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