Steel foundry

Dust and Fume Hazards in Iron and Steel Founding

Occupational exposure to dust and fumes in iron and steel founding can cause serious health hazards – including increasing the risk of lung cancer by 500%.

Employees in iron and steel manufacturing include plants that refine ferrous scrap, iron ore, or coke. They also provide mill services for products such as metal plates, sheets, pipes and bars.

Steel foundry© DedMityay / Shutterstock

These types of occupations expose workers to high-risk situations, such as exposure to carcinogens. Incidents of pulmonary diseases among employees is significantly greater than in the general population.

To combat the risks, businesses must use metal dust extraction solutions, such as a downdraught bench, to remove harmful particles from the atmosphere.


How many workers are at risk?

Contributing £8 billion to the annual UK economy, the iron and steel industry represents 3% of the national manufacturing output. There are approximately 1,100 UK businesses in the sector, employing 33,400 people.

Some of the main products manufactured include rods and bars, wire coil, ingots, tin mill products, sheets, strips, plates and railway tracks.


Main health risks

The increased likelihood of developing lung cancer among retired iron and steelworkers is one of the biggest health hazards in the industry.

Steel foundries are known to produce hazardous levels of dust. People working in these conditions are at risk of swallowing or inhaling airborne metal particles and fumes. Over time, this can lead to healthy cells mutating throughout the pathways of the respiratory system.

Chronic inflammation of the cells in the trachea, nose, bronchi and lungs, combined with severe irritation by dust, can make normally functioning cells precancerous due to mutations, and these dust-related health issues can occur years after working with metal particles and fumes.

They can include bronchitis, asthma, COPD, rhinitis, pneumoconiosis or “dusty lung” and tracheitis, an inflammation in the throat.

Occupational exposure to the various toxins in the metalworking industry can even prove fatal over time if the appropriate safety precautions aren’t taken.


How many workers fall ill?

Work-related asthma is a major problem among UK metalworkers. On average, there are between 1,500 and 3,000 new cases of asthma every year caused by exposure to harmful substances, such as metal particles and dust. The Health and Safety Executive believes many more cases remain undiagnosed, so the figure could be much higher.

Employers must be aware of the hazards and take steps to reduce their potential to cause illnesses.

Employees are protected in the workplace by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. Businesses who fail in their duty of care can be subject to severe financial penalties. Employees diagnosed with lung cancer or other chronic diseases can potentially sue their employer for compensation.


How can employers protect workers?

AirBench downdraught benches are self-contained workbenches with built-in dust extraction and fume extraction systems. Dust and fumes are drawn into internal filters through the surface. Clean air is then returned to the room.

They do not require complex installation: simply plug them in, switch them on and you’re ready to start work!

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Why choose AirBench?

AirBench Ltd are the UK’s leading manufacturer of downdraught benches and cross draught extraction systems. We have more than 10,000 extraction systems in service in the UK and overseas. Along with our range of coolant mist filters and air cleaning systems, we are actively helping businesses across many industries solve their workplace dust and fume issues.


If you'd like to try an AirBench product for FREE simply book a demo and we'll bring one to you.