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Unions decry welders exposure to harmful, fumes

Manufacturing News

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) has decried the contionuing exposure of workers to welding fumes, following a decision by Safe Work Australia (SWA) decision to review, rather than immediately lower acceptable fume exposure limits.

The union, which represents welders, boilermakers and fitters, 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 yesterday to immediately lower the limit for welding fumes exposure in workplaces and fund research into a health-based standard and atmosphere monitoring methodology.

However SWA decided 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, according to the union.

Welding fume was reclassified as a Group 1 carcinogen in 2017.

AMWU National President Andrew Dettmer (pictured) said: “The science on welding fumes causing cancer was settled years ago, and we know that welders have an almost 50 percent 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.”

Dettmer said Australia already lagged behind the rest of the world in this area.

“We had the chance to change that, 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.”

Picture: Andrew Dettmer

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