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A Quick Guide to Working Safely with Solder Fumes

Learn about the important health and safety guidance for employees handling rosin-based solder flux, a substance that may foster serious health issues such as asthma and dermatitis, in this summary of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) document INDG248(rev2). This outlines key protective measures, including accurately identifying the solder fume type, maintaining a physical distance from the fumes, utilising correct control measures like Local Exhaust Ventilation and solder fume extraction techniques. Always ensure to cooperate with employer-led health surveillance. Stay informed, attentive, and safe when dealing with solder fumes, whether from rosin-based fluxes or other variants.

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Introduction

This article is a quick guide to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) document INDG248(rev2) 'Solder fume and you: An employee’s guide'. The guide provides crucial information for individuals who work with rosin, specifically colophony-based solder flux, which can cause serious health issues like asthma and dermatitis.

What You Need to Know

Working with rosin-based solder fluxes requires you to take specific actions to prevent, control or reduce exposure to fumes, as they can cause serious health problems. It's important to know what type of solder fume you are using, so ask your manager if you're unsure.

Health Risks

  • Health problems can occur when soldering, and symptoms can include coughing, wheezing, runny eyes or nose, and a tight chest. These could be signs of occupational asthma or another serious illness.
  • If solder flux fume makes you ill, the effects will worsen if you continue to inhale the fume.
  • Your employer may have a health surveillance process in place to help protect employees' health. If so, you will be asked to cooperate with this process.

Protecting Your Health

To protect your health while soldering, always keep your face out of the solder fume and use the correct control measures. These may include:

  • Local exhaust ventilation (LEV)
  • Solder fume extraction
  • On-tip extraction
  • Down-draught benches
  • Enclosing hoods
  • Moveable capturing hoods

You should use fume extraction when soldering using rosin-based fluxes or when using alternative fluxes for more than a few minutes a day. Make sure the system works properly every time you use or move it. Check for yourself to see how effective the LEV is where you work.

Further Reading and Information

For more information on controlling health risks from rosin (colophony)-based solder fluxes, visit www.hse.gov.uk/asthma/solderers.htm and www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg.htm.

Conclusion

Working with solder fumes, specifically rosin-based solder fluxes, can pose significant health risks. It's crucial to understand these risks and take appropriate measures to protect your health. Always use the correct control measures and cooperate with any health surveillance processes in place at your workplace. Stay informed and stay safe.

Author

Richard O'Connor's Headshot

Richard O'Connor is a Director at First Mats. He has deep knowledge in areas like Manufacturing, Warehousing, Marine, and Health & Safety. Richard's insights have been featured in well-known publications such as Bloomberg Business, The Sun, and Reader's Digest. His blend of industry expertise and passion for sharing makes him a sought-after voice in his fields.

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