Welding and Thermal Cutting Fume – Potential for Occupational Health Effects (2022)


This paper was compiled to give guidance on the assessment, evaluation and control of occupational exposure to Welding and Thermal Cutting Fume with an emphasis on recommending a health‐based occupational exposure limit (OEL). The current Safe Work Australia (SWA) workplace exposure standard (WES) and current international OELs are discussed and the possible health effects examined.



Key messages:

This Position Paper was compiled to provide guidance on the assessment, evaluation, and control of occupational exposure to welding and thermal cutting fume, with emphasis on use of a trigger value for fume which is Not Otherwise Specified / Classified (NOS / NOC).

Welding and thermal cutting fumes are produced as by-products of welding and thermal cutting processes. These fumes produce acute, chronic, and carcinogenic exposure risks and are heavily dependent on the welding process, materials/consumables used which produce various constituents in the fumes. These constituents may include, but are not limited to, aluminium, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, manganese, iron oxide, vanadium, zinc, and copper as well as solder pyrolysis products (rosins). In addition, gases including carbon monoxide, phosphine, phosgene, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide may be present.

The AIOH believe that exposures to welding and thermal cutting fume should be maintained as low as reasonably practicable. There is existing industry-specific guidance / best practice approaches, which should be used. This Position Paper proposes that the current TWA-WES should be lowered to 1 mg/m3 (as inhalable fraction), to be used as a trigger value to implement fume controls. The WES values for the individual constituents in the fumes must also be complied with.