The Dark Side of Metal Work: Are You Protected?

Every employee faces potential hazards in their workplace, some come with obvious warning signs, while others creep their way in, causing damage after prolonged exposure. The more 'hidden' hazards can sometimes be the most dangerous, and it is the employer's responsibility to have preventative measures in place.


Siderosis is the "chronic inflammation of the lungs caused by excessive inhalation of dust [or fumes] containing iron salts or particles."1 Different forms of Siderosis can also see the deposit of "an abnormal quantity of iron in the liver"2 as well as a "degeneration of the retina, lens, and uvea as a result of the deposition of iron"3. Siderosis is most common with those working with iron oxide; welders, miners and allied processes. Allied processes being "metal joining or metal depositing processes, soldering, brazing, adhesive bonding, metal spraying and surfacing."4

What are fumes? Fumes are "solid particles […] formed by the condensation and oxidation of the metal which have been vaporized by the arc or flame. These particles are capable of being deposited in the gas-exchange region of the lungs."5

Metal worker in shop wearing face shield and surrounded by fumes

What are the symptoms of Siderosis? Siderosis does not often have symptoms. It can be seen on x-rays and CT scans as nodules on the lungs, however it does not often show any other signs to those it affects. You might be thinking, then what is the big deal? But the big deal is Siderosis can "give rise to other disease conditions which can cause significant symptoms."5

What can be done to prevent Siderosis? It is important that the employer put all safety precautions in place to make the workplace as safe as possible for its employees.

Ventilation • it is required that employers have the appropriate ventilation specific to the job that is taking place. This may include a ventilation hood, fan, duct, air cleaner or supplied air system.

Respiratory Protection • the appropriate respiratory protection needs to be worn by all employees that could be affected by the fumes in their workplace. Respirators need to be fitted properly and inspected regularly.

Safety Data Sheets • it is important that safety data sheets are available and kept up to date in order to provide employers and employees with all the adequate information needed to keep themselves safe.

It is recommended by the government of Canada that "the employer should make sure that all workers get regular checkups with the physician so as to detect any lung damage early and slow down the progression of the disease process". It is important that both the employer and employees take all the appropriate precautions, the employer sets the guidelines but it is equally as important that the employees follow these procedures in order to maintain a safe workplace. If you notice something that needs to be changed, don't hesitate to speak with your employer, for safety's sake!

Person using a metal saw showing their hands and the saw with sparks flying off the metal

Are you worried your workplace may not be compliant? MySDS Inc. can complete a Safety Audit of your workplace and work with you to create the safest working environment possible for you and your employees. CONTACT US!


  1. The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
  2. Dorland's Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers. © 2007 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.
  3. Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012
  4. ME Mechanical Classification of Welding and Allied Processes. Copyright 2019 ME Mechanical
  5. Welding and allied processes: A guide to health hazards and hazard control measures. Copyright 2019. Government of Canada.