Fumes

Vapours, gas, and other fumes can put workers and the public at risk when inhaled. These fumes can also cause occupational asthma and damage the nervous system.

How are workers and others harmed?

The work of many different industries, in particular construction and manufacturing, can produce a range of fumes, depending on the worksite. These include but are not limited to:

  • Asphalt
  • Diesel fumes
  • Fumes from chemicals used (eg, in a manufacturing process). 

Exposure to these and other fumes is a serious health risk and can cause serious diseases. 

What you can do

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples: 

  • Reduce the risk of concentrated exposure to fumes by improving ventilation.
  • Use administrative measures such as adequate health and safety training, instructions and information to workers, appropriate supervision, good personal hygiene and good housekeeping.
  • Schedule work for a time when fewer people are present.
  • Post warning signs.
  • Ensure safe work procedures are clearly displayed.
  • Provide workers with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respirators, gloves, footwear, eye wear and protective clothing.
  • Test PPE and make sure it’s working properly.
  • Ensure workers have been trained on how to properly use PPE. 

You need to select the most effective controls that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Get your workers involved

  • Ensure your workers know how to make suggestions, ask questions or raise concerns.
  • Always ask your workers for input on identifying health and safety risks and how to eliminate or minimise them. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good decisions when they have been involved in the conversation. Your workers (including contractors and temps) are the eyes and ears of your business. They can help spot issues, and suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.
  • Always train your workers on what the key risks are and how to keep healthy and safe. 

Find out more about getting your workers involved

Where to go for more information

WorkSafe resources

International websites

WorkSafe British Columbia: Welding gases and fumes(external link)

WorkSafe British Columbia: Exposure prevention guides(external link)