2020 Welding Fume and Respiratory Protection Survey Report
Even with everything that is now known about the dangers of welding fume, only 20% of Australian and New Zealand welders answered ‘YES’ when they were asked if they felt protected from welding fume at work. Only 11% of workplaces had engaged an occupational hygienist to conduct air monitoring and the majority of workplaces did not include welders in the PPE decision making process (53%) and expected the welders to pay for their own respiratory equipment (65%). Disturbingly, 32% of welders are not using any form of respiratory protection and 37% are still unaware that welding fume had been reclassified as carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Unfortunately, welders believe that COST is the largest barrier and the reason why businesses will not introduce better controls to protect their welders. With the results above, it is clear Australia and New Zealand have a long way to go in the promotion of the safety and well-being of welders. Increasing the level of knowledge regarding dangers and protective measures was highlighted as the 2nd largest factor in ensuring welders are better protected in the future. This report, based on the ‘2020 Welding Fume and Respiratory Protection Survey’, aims to do just that.
How to use this report
The questions of the survey will be presented with a graphical of over 2,400 responses from Australian and New Zealand welders.
> Based on your workplace and experience, answer the question in your own head before reviewing the responses.
> Compare your answer and responses from the survey to the information Section based on legislative, regulative or government bodies in Australia and New Zealand have stated.
> Use the helpful links provided for more information
Do you currently feel
welding fume at work?
20% responded YES to this question.
The employer has the primary responsibility to ensure that welders are not exposed to health and safety risks whilst performing their job. If elimination of the risk is not possible, the employer must minimise the risk. Where substitution and reduction of hazardous chemicals is not possible, engineering and/or administrative controls as well as personal protective equipment, such as powered air respirators, must be introduced. The dangers of welding fume are very real, but once qualified and quantified, protecting welders can be straightforward. As a result, all welders should feel protected from welding fume at work.
Are you aware that the IARC classified welding fume as carcinogenic?
37% responded NO to this question.
In March 2017, scientists from around the world met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC; Lyon, France) to evaluate the carcinogenicity of welding fume. Based on substantial new evidence through observational and experimental studies, welding fume has now been reclassified from ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’ as it was originally classified in 1989 to its new Group 1 classification as ‘carcinogenic to humans’. The working group concluded that there is “sufficient evidence in humans” that welding fumes cause lung cancer and limited evidence for kidney cancer.
For more information on the reclassification of welding fume use the link below.
Welding fume: a known carcinogen
Has air monitoring been conducted at your workplace?
11% responded YES to this question.
The employer must ensure that air monitoring is carried out for welding fume if:
• They are not certain on reasonable grounds whether the airborne concentration of the substance or mixture at the workplace exceeds the relevant exposure standard, or
• Monitoring is necessary to determine whether there is a risk to health.
Are welders included in the PPE discussions and decisions at your workplace?
53% responded NO to this question.
When selecting suitable PPE, the employer should consult with the welders. A welder’s knowledge, experience and personal preferences improve the overall decision-making process. As someone who is directly affected by welding hazards, a welder is entitled to take part in the consultation process and selection of suitable PPE. Welders should aim to educate themselves on the risks, understand the appropriate PPE available and look to involve themselves in the consultation process and ultimate selection of suitable PPE.
What protection measures do welders currently use at your workplace?
PAPR WELDING HELMETS are the most widely used form of respiratory protection. 32% of welders still use NO RESPIRATORY PROTECTION at all.
Regarding PPE, the Cancer Council have advised that welders should wear either ‘air supplied or air purifying respiratory protection’ and use ‘a full-face welding helmet, with a UV filtered lens’.
A powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) can provide air over 50 times cleaner than the air inhaled by an unprotected welder. When compared to disposable and reusable half mask respiratory protection, a PAPR can provide superior respiratory protection and does not require fit-testing.
What protection measures do welders believe are enough?
74% of welders included PAPR WELDING HELMETS in the protection measures they believed were enough to protect themselves from welding fume. This was based on their individual application and environment.
With flip-up PAPR welding helmets, welders can have completely clear and uninhibited views of their workpiece and surroundings, while maintaining their desired level of respiratory protection at all times with no breathing resistance. The powered air respirator goes wherever you go, allowing you to move around your workplace with perfect vision, improved comfort, and uninterrupted respiratory protection.
A recent case study from a manufacturing company with over 1,500 employees, including 600 certified welders, found that ‘foreign body eye injuries decreased over 70% year-on-year’1 in areas that implemented the PAPRs with integrated flip-up auto-darkening welding helmets. Worker compensation claims decreased markedly while employee morale increased substantially.
What is stopping your workplace from introducing better safety measures?
61% responded 'THE COST' to this question.
What is the cost of not protecting welders?
• Welders present, on average, a 43% increased risk of lung cancer when compared with those who have never welded or been exposed to welding fume.
• An unprotected welder operating within the
Australian and New Zealand exposure standards for general welding fume (5 mg/m3) could inhale up to 11 grams of a known carcinogen per year.
• Every year, around 5,000 work-related cancer cases are linked to workplace carcinogens in Australia.
To set-up a respiratory PPE cost analysis, please contact QWS:
P: 07 3399 6199
Auto Darkening Welding Helmets with a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) can increase productivity and reduce cost.
• Depending on your application and environment, powered air respiratory protection can be a more economical option when compared to half mask respirators.
• The protection (eye/face/head/respiratory/ hearing) and comfort afforded by these systems can lead to a reduction in lost work days due to injury or illness.
• With auto-darkening technology the welder can weld faster and their movement around the workpiece can become more efficient.
• Where the final appearance of the weld is critical, reduction in scrap alone (e.g. from bad starts) can quickly pay for auto-darkening respiratory welding helmets.
Who would be financially responsible for purchasing PAPR Welding Helmets?
35% responded 'THE BUSINESS' to this question.
Under both the Australian Model WHS regulations and the New Zealand Health and Safety at Work Regulations, the employer is financially responsible for providing PPE to workers and must not charge employees for using the equipment.
The only exception to this is if the personal protective equipment has been provided by another person conducting a business or undertaking, like a labour hire company.
Australian Model WHS regulations
New Zealand Health and Safety at Work Regulations
For more information on your responsibilities in Australia, download Safe Work Australia’s Model Code of Practice: Welding Processes.
For a summary on PPE responsibilities in NZ, use this link to Worksafe NZ
What is required to better protect welders in the future?
The Top 3 responses:
1. 59% - believe powered air welding helmets should be mandatory
2. 58% - believe the knowledge regarding dangers and protective measures needs to increase
3. 44% - believe legislation on exposure limits needs to change
Only 2% of respondents felt that ‘NOTHING’ needs to change.
Safe Work Australia is currently reviewing the exposure standards for welding fume (not otherwise classified) and is planning to make the draft evaluation reports and recommendations available for comment in the coming months.
Following public comment, the recommendations will be considered by Safe Work Australia members.
If agreed, these recommendations will then progress to Commonwealth, state and territory ministers responsible for work health and safety as the relevant decision-makers on any changes to the model work health and safety laws or workplace exposure standards.
Use this link to be notified when Safe Work Australia publishes their draft recommendations for expert comment in the coming months -
Information on the survey and sample size.
The 2020 Welding Fume and Respiratory Protection
Survey was conducted over a two-month period
during April and May 2020.
Over 2,400 welders took part in the survey making the surveyed group approximately 3% of the total number of welders in Australia and New Zealand (approx. 75,000).
The majority of welders surveyed had been welding for 20 to 40 years. See the graph to the right for a break down of how many years the welders surveyed had been welding for.
Official Articles By: 3M Speedglas
2020 Welding Fume Survey Interactive Report originally written by Speedglas
The QWS team is well trained in recommending efficient RESPIRATORY PROTECTION options to protect yourself from hazardous welding fumes at all times with efficient respiratory protection.
QWS offers a broad range of respiratory protection, we have RESPIRATORS WITH VALVES, FILTERS & PRE-FILTERS, SILICON HALF MASK FACE PIECE, PARTICULATE FILTERS, HEAD HARNESS, FILTER ADAPTORS, PEEL-OFF VISOR OPTIONS, NECK PADS, FILTER RETAINERS, TWIN FILTER HALF MASKS, RESPIRATOR CLEANING WIPES, SOCK FILTERS, DISPOSABLE RESPIRATORS, RESPIRATOR WELDING KIT, BREATHING TUBES and many more…
VIEW OUR FULL RANGE OF RESPIRATORY PROTECTION HERE
Acetylene is one of the industry standard methods of cutting of all the Industrial Thermal Cutting Processes, but when Propane (LPG) was introduced to the market the whole thermal cutting process changed and the...
If you are involved in the welding industry this Welding Safety White Paper page is for you. Here we have compiled our most recent articles about 'White Papers' which tackle...
Here's how you can upgrade your protection! Whether you're new to Speedglas powered air, or currently own an Adflo PAPR system, we're here to help you upgrade to the latest...
Breaking News on Welding Fume! The results of our Welding Fume Survey have sparked an industry-wide conversation around the importance of respiratory protection. To keep this conversation going, we need...
Love what we type? Subscribe to our newsletter and be updated when we post new content!