A review published today in the scientific journal Occupational Medicine found that welders die more often from certain types of pneumonia which can be prevented by the PPV23 vaccination.
Author Professor Keith Palmer, Professor of Occupational Medicine at the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton said:“Many employers are unaware that exposure to welding fume can cause pneumonia.
“Although fatal cases are rare, they can occur. Companies need to ensure that anyone undertakes welding work or is exposed to metal fumes is offered the vaccination.
“They also need to advise workers how to reduce their exposure to the fumes as much as possible and encourage them to not smoke.”
The review found that welders were up to six times more likely to suffer from Pneumococcal pneumonia – a disease usually affects with the very young, the elderly and those with impaired immunity.
Dr Richard Heron, President of the Society of Occupational Medicine said, “This is an important message – a £30 jab may save a life.
“There are probably between 50,000 and 70,000 welders in the UK who stand to gain. The review explains that the benefit of providing vaccinations is likely to be comparable to that of taking aspirin for a year to prevent a heart attack or cardiac death.
“At the same time, we should always remember that prevention is better than cure – vaccination is not a substitute for good control of workplace exposure.”
The review highlighted the importance of ensuring that those exposed to these harmful fumes are given appropriate protective equipment and follow other safety advice such as to minimize exposure.