Yesterday, BOHS with its partners, launched the second phase of the breathe freely initiative – #breathefreely in manufacturing, at the EEF headquarters in central London. The campaign will initially be focusing on welding – raising awareness of the risks from respiratory disease and options available to prevent and control welding fume and gases.
Welding is one of the most common activities carried out in industry. It is estimated that there are at least 190,000 welders in the UK.
The main health hazard with many welding operations – particularly manual metal arc (MMA) (stick) and MIG welding – is the welding fume. This consists of very fine particles of metal oxides, mainly arising from the welding rod or wire.
The HSE estimates that exposure to welding fume causes more than 150 deaths due to cancer every year. Exposure to the fume and gases can also cause other diseases, including:
- metal fume fever
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes bronchitis and emphysema
Many welders are exposed unnecessarily to welding fume. Control measures are available – but it’s important to make sure the right controls are used – there is not one solution that will be effective in all cases.