A Wrexham solicitor has warned that the substitution of other gases currently being used in welding processes due to a shortage of carbon dioxide (CO2) could have a lethal effect on the health of those working in the welding industry.
Much has recently been made in the media about the CO2 shortage being responsible for a lack of gassy beer on tap, but Robert Williams, a partner with leading North Wales and Shropshire law firm GHP Legal, says the problems in the livestock and hospitality industries are small beer compared to the potentially lethal situation in the welding industry.
“It is far more worrying that workers in the welding industry are being subjected to the dangers of Argon and other inert gases being substituted for CO2 “, says Mr Williams, “and the health and safety issues that can arise from using these inert gases can cause fatalities unless proper measures are adopted to control them.
“We know of at least one batch of cases where carbon dioxide has been replaced by Argon and the appropriate health and safety measures have not been undertaken. It should be a simple matter of risk assessing a method, considering the COSHH documentation and dealing with the appropriate personal protected equipment.
“However, the problem with Argon and other inert and heavier than air gasses is that they can fill the lungs and displace the oxygen as they are heavier than air. You then end up with a situation not unlike decompression sickness, but the person it is happening to is totally unaware that it is the replacement gas that is making them ill.
“Initial symptoms may be shivering and sickness but these should not be underestimated. Bosses need to inform staff about the replacement gases, ensure proper breathing apparatus is used and vigilantly monitor both the working conditions and the health of the workers.
“Anyone suspected of Argon or other gas poisoning needs to be dealt with carefully and urgently in hospital. One of my clients was told that if he had not sought medical attention and had instead just gone to bed to “sleep it off”, then the heavy Argon would have remained lying in his lungs and he would have suffocated in his sleep!”