Various types of toxic fumes encountered in the workplace can put employee health at risk. Exposure to activities such as welding and soldering, or to substances including paint and chemicals, can create serious safety hazards.
Dangerous workplace fumes pose a risk that requires careful assessment in many different occupations. They can be ingested or inhaled, leading to potentially life-changing health implications.
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Employers must seek ways to prevent exposure to fumes by providing PPE for employees and using fume extraction equipment that collects harmful substances and removes them from the air.
There are several common examples of dangerous fumes in the workplace, each with their own harmful effects.
Welding fume extraction is crucial, due to the severe hazards posed for employees. Certain metals, filler rods and shield gases contain extremely dangerous chemicals that can damage the respiratory system if inhaled. This results in short and long-term health problems including COPD, asthma, pneumonia and cancer.
In the UK, around 150 people die of cancer each year as a direct result of inhaling welding fumes due to occupational exposure.
The large amount of harmful and toxic substances including welding fumes, nitrogen oxide, metal oxide particles and carbon monoxide means the whole workshop is usually filled with particles of hazardous substances.
The appropriate welding and grinding extraction systems must be used at all times to protect workers.
Soldering fume extraction in the workplace is crucial, as employees run the risk of suffering heath issues such as occupational asthma, allergic hypersensitivity, eye and nose irritation, bronchitis and other conditions.
As solder fumes rise vertically, they can enter the body through the nose and mouth unless protection is provided. The most serious hazards are the solder fumes created by resin or colophony-based solder flux.
Employers must manage the risks through the use of equipment such as a downdraught bench – a self-contained workbench with built-in dust and fume extractor systems.
Employees in the electronics industry are especially prone to solder fumes.
The types of health hazards in the electronics industry can vary, depending on which products are being manufactured. For example, employees working in semiconductor manufacturing can come into contact with some dangerous chemicals including silane, arsine and phosphine.
Rosin-based flux contains resin acids which have the potential to cause respiratory and skin problems. It is the fifth most common cause of occupational asthma in the UK.
Workers who are exposed to paint fumes and chemical fumes are at a high risk of suffering respiratory problems.
For example, people who are employed in spray-painting vehicles in a body shop run the risk of occupational asthma due to being continually exposed to hazardous paints and chemicals in an enclosed space.
An estimated 17,000 new cases of occupational breathing and lung problems occur in the UK every year. Around one-third are diagnosed as asthma, according to Health and Safety Executive data.
How do fume extractors work?
Effective dust, fume and mist extraction is a vital part of your business’s COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) compliance, which is a legal requirement governed by the HSE.
Fume extractors extract and filtrate toxic fumes in the workplace to ensure your company isn’t breaking the strict laws regarding the health and safety of employees.
The contaminated air containing dangerous particles is sucked into the fume extractor, which cleans it through a series of filters before returning the clean air to the room.
Dust particles and toxic fumes are safely collected within the filters, thanks to the fume extractor fan, which generates the equipment’s suction flow.
The COSHH regulations 2002 require employers to determine what the health hazards are by carrying out a risk assessment, provide control measures to reduce the risks to employees and keep the safety equipment in good working order.
Failure to do so can result not only in serious health problems for the workforce, but also severe financial penalties for your business.