Welding – risk to respiratory health from fume exposure

Fumes known as ‘welding fume’ are produced during welding and ‘hot activity’ work and this is associated with occupational asthma.

When you are a welder you have a greater chance of getting asthma than the average worker, particularly if you are welding stainless steel.

Stainless steel welding fume ingredients of chromium and nickel are capable of causing occupational asthma, these are known as asthmagens.

See COSHH Essentials for detailed advice on control

Top Tips

  • You should protect yourself and others – at all times – by using the correct methods and controls.
  • Keep your face out of the fume – breathing in any fume is bad for you.
  • Always use the appropriate equipment and check that it is working properly.  If not, inform your employer.
  • You need regular health surveillance

Reduce disease – reduce expose to welding fume

The fume given off by welding and hot cutting processes is a varying mixture of airborne gases and very fine particles which if inhaled can cause ill health

The visible part of the fume cloud is mainly particles of metal, metal oxide and flux (if used).

Different methods of welding will create different levels of fume.

Techniques that create a higher level of fume are more dangerous.

Case Studies

Case studies are real incidents with real and often serious long-term consequences for the people involved.

  • Phil the welder

Further information

  • More general advice for employers
  • Welding health and safety
  • The Welding Fume Team (WFT) was established by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2010 with membership from organisations and individuals representing employers and employees, trade associations, equipment and material suppliers etc..
  • “badairday”  – The WFT, has developed an independent website called ‘badairday‘. This website provides a resource which includes links to further information on the respiratory health risks from exposure to welding and thermal cutting fume, and how to control exposure. It is aimed at both employers and employees who use welding in the workplace as part of their business or work.


You can find more guidance and information for welders on the Asthma publications pages.

Article source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/asthma/welder.htm