5 June 2023 – The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) is launching a new campaign to lower the limit for welding fumes exposure in Australian workplaces as well as a new exposure register to support workers who develop illnesses.
Australia’s current workplace exposure standard for welding fumes sets the limit at 5 mg/m3, significantly higher than elsewhere overseas. The limit has not been updated since 1991, despite welding fumes being reclassified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2017.
The AMWU will call on Safe Work Australia to lower the limit to 1 mg/m3, bringing it into line with countries such as the Netherlands.
People who work in welding have a 48% higher risk of developing lung cancer, according to a 2022 study from the World Health Organization and International Labour Organization. The national welding fumes exposure register that allows workers to create a record of workplace exposure they can access for future reference has been established in conjunction with Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.
AMWU National President Andrew Dettmer said:
“Every worker should be able to do their job as safely as possible. Proper ventilation and respiratory protection are critical safety measures for welding, and a lower exposure limit would force employers to provide a safer workplace that uses effective controls.
“We know that welders have an almost 50% higher risk of developing lung cancer, but it’s also people in workplaces where welding happens that are exposed to fumes – that’s tens of thousands of Australian workers.
"This is an overdue change that reflects what we’ve known for years, that welding fumes cause cancer. But it’s not just cancer; workers exposed to welding fumes can also develop metal fume fever, manganism, work-related asthma and other chronic lung conditions.
“Establishing a lower limit is an important step in making welding safer.”
The AMWU will launch the campaign in an online event Monday 5 June with speakers from Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, the Cancer Council and Apex Welding Safety.
For further comment: Cinzia Myatt 0437 139 801