Home 5 News & Views 5 Workplace Exposure Standard for Welding Fumes Changed

Workplace Exposure Standard for Welding Fumes Changed

Jan 30, 2024

Safe Work Australia recently announced that Work Health and Safety Ministers have agreed to an immediate reduction in the workplace exposure standard for welding fumes, from an 8-hour time weighted average (TWA) of 5 mg/m3 to 1 mg/m3.

As the exposure standard for welding fumes has been reduced, all necessary controls must be implemented to meet this higher standard.

Recommended Actions

Based on the hierarchy of controls, the following actions are recommended:

  1. At-source fume control is recommended to maximise the level of fume captured and controlled as it is generated. Suitable methods include local exhaust ventilation (LEV) such as a hooded fume extractor and/or on-gun fume extraction. Captured fume should be filtered and exhausted to atmosphere, preferably outside the workshop.
  2. Welders also require personal respiratory protection, particularly where the welder’s head is likely to be in or near the weld plume. For example, the use of Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) offer an excellent measure of protection in most welding situations. Externally air-fed helmets may be preferable or be required in some situations, such as confined spaces where oxygen monitoring is required.
  3. Good overall ventilation throughout the workshop to protect the general workforce.

If in doubt, specialist advice should be sought from an occupational hygienist and fume exposure monitoring undertaken.

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. Safety must be taken seriously in the workplace, to avoid the risk of long-term impacts.”

“As the Responsible International Institute of Welding (IIW) representative in Australia, Weld Australia is at the forefront of global welder safety best practice. We regularly participate in international research and development programs designed to improve welding fume safety practices,” said Crittenden.

Need Help?

Weld Australia has established a dedicated hotline to help Australian welders and fabricators who need advice on the changes to the workplace exposure standard for welding fumes. This can be reached via: 1800 212 988.

Further information is also available via a dedicated section of Weld Australia’s website: https://weldaustralia.com.au/welding-fumes

Weld Australia’s Initiatives to Improve Welder Safety

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

Weld Australia has published a wide range of welding safety resources, which 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. This is being revised in line with the changes, with a new edition to be published in the coming weeks.
  • 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.

Established by Weld Australia in early 2019, the Welding Safety Council provides a forum for industry and legislative safety authorities to discuss issues and work collaboratively to identify solutions. By drawing together key government stakeholders, statutory bodies and industry into a single independent body focused on eradicating welding related injury, the Australian welding industry continues to take significant steps forward in protecting both the general public and welders.

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 cover a raft of activities across a range of welding processes, from electric arc welding and flame cutting, through to topics like welding fume safety, and welding in confined spaces, at heights, or in hot and humid conditions. These courses are in the final stages of development and will soon be made freely available via the Weld Australia website.

Need Help?

Weld Australia has established a dedicated hotline to help Australian welders and fabricators who need advice on the changes to the workplace exposure standard for welding fumes. This can be reached via: 1800 212 988.

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