7 September 2023 – The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) has welcomed the decision by SafeWork Australia to lower the limit for welding fumes exposure in workplaces.
In a meeting yesterday, SafeWork Australia adopted recommendations to immediately lower the limit for welding fumes exposure from 5mg/m3 to 1mg/m3. It’s the first time the limit has been updated since it was introduced in 1991, bringing Australia into line with the Netherlands, which has had the lowest limit in the world to date.
Welding fumes were reclassified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2017, and a 2022 study from the World Health Organization showed that people who work in welding have a 48% higher risk of developing lung cancer.
A recent survey of people who weld or work around welding found that 58% of respondents didn’t think that exposure to welding fume was reduced as low as reasonably practicable in their workplace.
The AMWU launched the Lower Limit Live Longer campaign in June of this year, calling on SafeWork Australia to immediately lower the limit for welding fumes to 1mg/m3.
AMWU National President Andrew Dettmer said:
“We welcome SafeWork Australia’s decision to immediately lower the limit for welding fumes in our workplaces.
“This is an overdue change that reflects what we’ve known for years, that welding fumes cause cancer and other serious illnesses.
“We know how to make welding as safe as possible, and a lower exposure limit will force employers to provide a safer workplace that uses effective controls.
“Having a limit that is now in line with the lowest in the world means that the tens of thousands of people across Australia who work around welding will be able to breathe a sigh of relief today.
“Establishing a lower limit is an important step in making welding safer, and it would not have happened with the efforts of AMWU members who have driven this critical change.”
For further comment: Darren Rodrigo 0414 783 405