Unfortunately, exposure to dust in the workplace can cause health risks that affect employee productivity and damage corporate reputations. There is no one type of dust to watch out for – it comes in different sizes and compositions. In this blog we will focus on nickel dust; what it is, how it can harm people’s health, and how you can protect your employees.
Nickel dust is a potentially toxic particulate found in workplaces across the metalworking industry that produce or use nickel and nickel compounds in mining, smelting, welding, casting and grinding. Not only is nickel a common component in many industrial processes, but the accumulation of nickel dust can be very dangerous to your workers’ health
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in the US provides a public health statement on nickel. It explains that nickel is often combined with other metals like iron, copper, chromium and zinc to create alloys – which are used to make various items such as jewellery, coins, valves and heat exchangers, as well as stainless steel. These manufacturing processes release fine bits of nickel into the air that attach to circulating dust particles. If these dust particles are very small, the nickel dust can circulate in the air for over a month before settling.
The longer nickel dust is in the air, the greater the risk it poses to your employees. The Health and Safety Executive from the UK outlines the effects of dust exposure – with a focus on nickel dust. Here’s a summary.