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The STS blog

12 Jan 2015

Metalwork and Welding Employers Encouraged to Offer Pneumonia Vaccination to Those Exposed to Metal Fumes.

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Do you hire staff exposed to metal fume as a result of welding or other metalworks? HSE has released new information to help protect your workers against the nasty, and potentially life threatening lung disease, Pneumonia. Managerial staff within the metalwork industry should take note!

Not the most pleasant of subjects, but UK employers are encouraged to consider implementing a vaccination program to administer PPV (Pneumococcal Polysaccharides Vaccine) in order to reinforce fume control and lower Pneumonia rates amongst metalworkers. This isn’t currently a legal requirement and no action will be taken by HSE against those employers who have satisfactory fume control procedures in place.

Pneumonia not only poses a risk to your employees’ health, but also can cause a managerial headache when it comes to absence, cover and all that comes with it. It is therefore a good idea for employers who are aware of a risk to their staff to offer the PPV as a preventative measure. Workers who are regularly exposed to the fume from metalworks are also at risk of other health problems, most notably COPD, although a definitive link is yet to be proven. It should also be noted that PPV is only for the prevention of Pneumonia and employees are still at risk from other work-related diseases that may arise as a result of metalworks.

So what is Pneumonia? In short, a severe and sometimes deadly lung disease, usually brought on my a common cough, especially during the winter months. The symptoms are close to the common cold, however further symptoms such a chest pains, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite and a general feeling of unwell over and above a normal cold. Other less common symptoms include nausea (sometimes with vomiting), headaches, fatigue and feeling disorientated, and in some cases, coughing up blood. Employers should also be aware that Pneumonia can take weeks, sometimes months to recover from, can you afford to lose valuable welders for this period of time?

Employers and their staff should keep an eye out for these symptoms and urge employees to seek medical attention as soon as possible with a view to receiving treatment in the way of antibiotics, either orally or intravenously, depending on the severity of the case. Shocking statistics released at the start of 2014 show that on average two metalworkers die each year as a result of work-related pneumonia and over fifty serious cases are reported in hospitals in England and Wales. With this in mind, should you be thinking about a PPV program? If so, a PDF version of the new information is available from the HSE website.