Welders do some of the most important tasks in manufacturing and construction. A high-quality weld can make the difference between success and failure, so it’s no wonder that good welders are in demand.
However, the job comes with risks. Most people think of the inherent danger involved in arc welding tools, but there’s another risk too: cancer. What precautions do welders need to stay safe?
Welders’ Lungs Are At Risk
We’ve known for a while that welders have an elevated risk of lung cancer. If you’ve been a welder for years, you’re 43% more likely to develop it. However, researchers have disagreed on the cause. Some said it was excess smoking, others thought it was an above average exposure to asbestos.
That disagreement may be coming to an end. Recently, a comprehensive study has demonstrated that even when smoking and asbestos are accounted for, the elevated risk for lung cancer still remains among welders. Researchers now believe this is due to the welding fumes themselves. Over a long period of time, the chemicals used in different welding processes can build up in your body and cause lung cancer.
Uncertainty Still Remains
Welders use many different processes to do their jobs: flux-core arc welding, gas tungsten arc welding, gas metal arc welding and others. All of these use different compounds and produce different kinds of welding fumes.
Unfortunately, we still don’t know what the cancer risks are for specific processes. It may be that one particular kind of welding has a much greater risk of cancer, while other kinds don’t. Ongoing research will hopefully clarify this in the future. For now, all welders should be sure to take care of their lungs while on the job.
What Welders Should Expect From Employers
Welding is dangerous work, and all welders should have a range of safety equipment when doing their jobs, including:
- Welding helmets, including side-shields
- Hearing protection
- Boots and gloves
- Clothing that’s resistant to fire
- Gloves and boots
However, to combat the lung cancer risks described above, employers should also supply you with a respirator and adequate ventilation at every work site. Keeping the air free of pollutants is of paramount importance, and you may need to use different strategies at different job sites.
Even with the proper precautions in place, accidents can still happen and welders can still get sick. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to pursue a workers’ compensation claim with the help of an experienced attorney. Welders deserve safety. If these fail-safes don’t work, they deserve compensation.