Home > Equipment & Environment > Safety and Fume Management

Safety and Fume Management

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 31 Aug 2019 | comments*Discuss
Fumes Health Workplace Metal Solder Flux

A number of industries use processes that generate fumes. At best, these fumes may be irritating; at worst, they can cause serious and even fatal diseases.

Employers must therefore manage fumes safely. They should be aware of the Hazardous Nature of Fumes, and have systems in place to ensure any risks to health are minimal.

Metal and Casting Industry

Metal and casting fumes can pose an extreme risk to health. Businesses that use molten metal must abide by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).

In any metal and casting foundry there must be ventilation. Fumes are hot and tend to rise, so there should be suitable vents and extraction fans in ceilings and high on walls.

In addition, a foundry should have low-level vents. These help to ensure a good flow of air through the building.

In some circumstances foundry workers may also need PPE (personal protective equipment).

Solder Fumes

One of the major causes of occupational asthma in the UK is rosin-based solder flux.

Rosin is a resin-like substance that comes from pine trees. Although it’s a natural product, it contains various potentially harmful acids.

Early symptoms of a health problem from rosin-based solder flux are stinging, watery eyes; a sore throat; breathing problems; coughing; and a blocked or runny nose.

HSE (Health and Safety Executive) research has shown there is no safe level of exposure to the fumes of rosin-based solder flux. Furthermore, if a workplace has no effective controls in place, the fumes drift and soon fill a room.

A workplace should have extraction fans and other forms of suitable ventilation. PPE such as masks can also help.

Employers should also consider alternatives types of flux that don’t use rosin. And for some jobs, mechanical joints may be a useful substitute.

Stainless Steel Welding

An HSE report has found there may be a widespread failure to manage exposure to stainless steel welding fumes correctly. The companies involved therefore fail to meet COSHH guidelines.

This failure doesn’t necessarily mean that workers are at risk. In fact, the HSE report suggests that violations of exposure limits on test sites were uncommon. But the fumes from stainless steel welding can contain hexavalent chromium and nickel. If inhaled, these may cause asthma, cancer and lung disease.

Employers should follow COSHH recommendations. These include a proper use of an LEV (local exhaust ventilation) hood. These are moveable hoods that enclose and extract fumes. Among some welding companies there is an incorrect belief that an LEV impairs the effectiveness of a stainless steel weld.

Fume Cupboards

Fume cupboards are common in the pharmaceutical industry. The cupboards manage fumes safely, but many are uncomfortable for workers to use and pose a threat to health.

Some cupboards are difficult to reach, for example. Others are too low. And some have badly-positioned control panels that block the operator’s view.

When choosing a fume cupboard, it’s wise to consider ergonomics. Questions to ask include:

  • Can an operator sit comfortably when using the cupboard?
  • Does the cupboard have adjustable legs?
  • Is there a foot platform?
  • Are the controls in a suitable position?

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Children’s nurse
    Re: Objecting to Changes in an Employment Contract
    I have worked for same ward nhs for 27 years . Over this time the shift times changed from 2x 8 hour shifts…
    16 October 2019
  • Doe
    Re: Returning to Work After Absence Due to Anxiety or Depression
    Hi i worked in a care home been there 2 months regularly working short staffed i was a…
    16 October 2019
  • Will
    Re: Violence at Work
    5 days ago I was threatened by a fellow member of staff both verbally and physically ( pushing his chest against my own) .I instantly requested…
    15 October 2019
  • Yogi
    Re: Food Safety and the Law
    Just been sold food from kfc and the foo sell by time label had lapsed by hr. Is this illegal?
    14 October 2019
  • Ian
    Re: Driving at Work
    We are currently experiencing temperatures in excess of 35 degrees I am being asked to drive long distances a heavy goods vehicle with no air…
    10 October 2019
  • Steve
    Re: Holiday Pay & Overtime: The Changes
    Average is paid for all holludays during the year
    10 October 2019
  • Clanny
    Re: Holiday Pay & Overtime: The Changes
    Do you get your average wage at both your summer and christmas holiday or is it only worked out for one of the 2…
    10 October 2019
  • Steve
    Re: Holiday Pay & Overtime: The Changes
    I have an issue i cannot get answered, i work 4 on 4 off 12 hour shifts, days and nights, if i take a holliday im…
    9 October 2019
  • gassey boy 55437t4
    Re: Food Safety and the Law
    no you do not need toilets as long as you have cups and a hose all is good PS. learnt all this from my health and social adviser who…
    9 October 2019
  • Meme
    Re: Violence at Work
    A week ago a coworker who was stressed and upset verbally attacked me because i asked for my tables food repeatedly. This was done in front of…
    8 October 2019