Reduced Exposure Standard for Welding Fume

Reduced Exposure Standard for Welding Fume

On the 18th of January 2024, Work Health & Safety Ministers approved the immediate reduction of the 8-hour Time Weighted Average (TWA) Workplace Exposure Standard (WES) for welding fume (not otherwise specified) from 5 mg/m3 to 1 mg/m3. The WES becomes mandatory once the changes to WHS/OHS laws in the Commonwealth, states and territories have been implemented.

Welding is common across a wide range of industries including aerospace, automotive, construction and infrastructure, railways, shipping, mining and resources, and manufacturing. Workers’ prolonged exposure to welding fume can cause acute and long-term health effects including metal fume fever, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer.

Welding fume can be a complex mix of metal fumes (e.g. cadmium, chromium, iron manganese, nickel, zinc) and gases (e.g. nitric oxide, ozone, argon, carbon dioxide, phosgene). Each have their own WES (some of which are lower than the overall welding fume WES) – for example:

  • Cadmium: 0.01 mg/m3 (TWA)
  • Chromium VI: 0.05 mg/m3 (TWA)
  • Manganese and nickel: 1 mg/m3 (TWA)
  • Zinc and iron: 5 mg/m3 (TWA)
  • Phosgene: 0.02 ppm (TWA)
  • Ozone: 0.1 ppm (peak)

The reduction from 5 mg/m3 to 1 mg/m3 is a significant decrease and is something that the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH) has been advocating for several years. It is important that PCBUs who have workers undertaking welding activities understand the nature of the risk, the potential levels of exposure, and have appropriate control measures to mitigate or eliminate the potential risk.

Work Science recently collaborated with University of Sydney on a research project to understand the occupational exposure to welding fumes and resultant health effects, and are in the process of conducting a study assessing the effectiveness of on-gun extraction. We have a range of highly qualified and experienced occupational hygienists (including Certified Occupational Hygienists) who can assist and advise on this matter. Get in touch with our team of experts.

Information and guidance on practical welding fume controls can be sourced from the likes of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists (AIOH), Breathe Freely Australia, welding industry bodies, fume extraction suppliers, respiratory protective equipment suppliers, and State and Territory Safe Work/Work Safe Regulators. Links to some free resources are provided below.


AIOH – Welding and Thermal Cutting Fume – Potential for Occupational Health Issues – Position Paper (April 2022)

Safe Work Australia – Welding fume information

Safe Work Australia – Workplace Exposure Standards for airborne contaminants (2024)