Breathe Freely targets welding fume in manufacturing

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After tackling ill health in construction, BOHS has announced its next Breathe Freely campaign - this time tackling the ‘fuel filled and cloggy worst’ of welding fume in manufacturing. Welding fume causes 150 workers to die in the UK each year.

At the event held at EEF in London yesterday, the audience heard how welding fume causes occupational asthma at three times the all industry average as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, metal fume fever and effects on the nervous system. It is a top ten cause of work-related cancer in the UK.
Martin Temple, chair of HSE, said: “Workers are still being exposed to high concentrations of fumes and gases, either there are no control, or inappropriate control, or controls provided are not being of profit.”
He said a third of all manufacturers HSE had inspected had been found in material breach for poor respiratory controls in welding.
“Many of you will have seen welding in all its glory, but many will have seen it at its fuel filled and cloggy worst,” he said, adding that parallels could be drawn around past acceptability of smoking at work.
The campaign from the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection (BOHS) is targeting respiratory health in welding in manufacturing specifically, a sprawling industry that is made up of around 190,000 welders. It is estimated that annually, around 4,000 of these workers suffer from breathing and lung problems they believed were caused or made worse by their work.
Launching the campaign, Karen Bufton, president of BOHS, said: “All of these cases of ill health caused by welding are preventable. Welders can be protected from the hazardous fumes and gases by recognising the hazards, evaluating the risks and controlling exposures. This is, quite simply, good occupational hygiene practice.
“We are urging employers to make use of our Breathe Freely resources to check that the right controls are in place and are being used properly, with a solid plan in place to ensure continuous improvements in practice.”
The campaign comes as welding fume was reclassified as a category 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The change announced this April is a significant jump from its previous 2B classification.
The campaign is supported by partners including The Welding Institute (TWI), TUC, JCB, Toyota and BAE Systems, as well as EEF and HSE.
Find out more about Breathe Freely in manufacturing and access the free resources
Interview with Mike Slater, chair of the steering group and past president of BOHS in the June issue of Safety Management



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