8 June 2023 – Workers exposed to welding fumes have today been let down by a Safe Work Australia (SWA) decision to kick the can down the road on lowering the limit for exposure.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU), representing thousands of welders, boilermakers and fitters who are exposed to welding fumes, has been calling for the limit set by the Workplace Exposure Standard for Welding Fumes (WES) to be lowered from 5mg/m3 to 1mg/m3 since 2021 when SWA moved to abolish the standard altogether.
Through the ACTU, the AMWU repeated its call at a meeting of SWA today to immediately lower the limit for welding fumes exposure in workplaces and fund research into a health-based standard and atmosphere monitoring methodology.
In a disappointing move, SWA has instead adopted to do a review of the WES that is likely to take a significant amount of time and resources without any guarantee of strengthening Australian safety standards around welding fumes at the end of the process.
Welding fume was reclassified as a Group 1 carcinogen in 2017.
AMWU National President Andrew Dettmer said:
“The science on welding fumes causing cancer was settled years ago, and we know that welders have an almost 50% higher risk of developing lung cancer.
“Let’s act now, not in another two years’ time, to strengthen our safety standards and lower welding fumes exposure in the workplace.
“The limit hasn’t been updated since it was set in the 1990s, leaving workers unnecessarily exposed.
“Australia already lags behind on this. We had the chance to change that today, but Safe Work Australia has turned its back on the Australian workers calling for a lower limit now.”
“The science is in. If Safe Work Australia won’t act, we’ll be calling on Minister Tony Burke to intervene. The health and safety of welders can’t wait for yet another pointless review.”
For further comment: Cinzia Myatt 0437 139 801