Indoor air in the metal industry - challenges and measures

What problems can a metal industry have with indoor air and five measures to consider

The metal industry has been extremely important to the Swedish economy since ancient times. However, the processing of metals involves a variety of processes, such as welding, grinding, cutting and punching, all of which can generate a variety of airborne particles and chemicals. This poses significant challenges to the quality of indoor air in many companies. Take five minutes to read about which ones and what you can possibly do about it.

Metalworking processes often involve the use of various machines, tools and materials, all of which can give rise to airborne particles and gases. These pollutants commonly affect air quality in workplaces and can pose a potential health risk to workers.

Common indoor air challenges in the metal industry

Here are some of the most common metalworking challenges related to indoor air quality:

Metal particles

Grinding, cutting and other processes result in the release of fine metal particles into the air. These particles can be particularly dangerous because they are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs and organs, causing respiratory problems and lung diseases, among other things.

Gas emissions

Some metalworking processes can generate dangerous gases, such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and ozone. These gases can irritate the airways and cause breathing problems, especially for people with asthma or other respiratory problems.

Vapours and chemicals

The use of various chemicals and solvents in metalworking can produce fumes that can be hazardous to health if inhaled for long periods.


In some processes, non-metallic materials may also be used, generating additional particles and dust in the air. This can lead to asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory diseases.

Disease-related air problems in the metal industry

The health problems that can arise from the challenges of indoor air in the metal industry through daily processing can be serious and costly for Swedish companies. Here are some of the disease-related problems that can arise:

  • Work-related lung diseases | The small metal particles released during processing can cause work-related lung diseases such as silicosis (stone lung), metal dust accumulation, COPD and pulmonary fibrosis. These conditions can lead to reduced work capacity and increased absenteeism among employees.
  • Asthma and allergies | Exposure to gases, vapors and particles during metalworking can trigger asthma attacks and aggravate allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
  • Cancer | Some chemicals used in metalworking processes, such as chromium and nickel, are known carcinogens. Long-term exposure to these substances can increase the risk of developing different types of cancer, which can lead to high costs for companies and employees.
  • Sick leave and loss of production | When employees suffer health problems due to poor indoor air quality, they are more likely to fall ill and take longer sick leave. This can easily become a vicious circle. In addition to individual and human health issues, this also affects companies through lost production and higher costs.

Five horizontal measures to improve indoor air quality in the metal sector

To address the challenges that metalworking often inherently presents, there are a number of actions that companies operating in this industry can take. The top five that should be on the agenda on an ongoing basis are:

  1. Ventilation and air filtration
    Of course, companies should ensure that they have well-functioning ventilation systems and effective air purification in the workplace to remove airborne particles and gases.
  2. Training and awareness
    Training and awareness of the risks of the impact of metalworking on indoor air is important. Employees should be informed about safety measures and best practices to reduce exposure.
  3. Chemical control
    Companies should constantly evaluate and consider using less hazardous chemicals or replacing them with more environmentally friendly alternatives to reduce the risk of exposure.
  4. Regular health checks and measurements
    Employers should offer regular health checks for employees working in metalworking to detect any health problems at an early stage. Furthermore, indoor air quality should be measured and monitored regularly.
  5. Personal protective equipment
    Workers should be provided with appropriate personal protective equipment, such as respirators and goggles, to reduce exposure to hazardous particles and vapors.

Problems with indoor air quality? Just take the challenge!

To summarize, it is quite easy to conclude that the metalworking industry is a very important part of the Swedish economy, and that the activities include different levels of challenges related to indoor air quality.

Exposure to airborne particles and chemicals during metalworking can lead to serious problems for both employees and companies.

By actively addressing these challenges and taking appropriate measures to improve indoor air quality and reduce exposure to hazardous substances, companies can help create a healthier working environment while reducing the risk of lost production and high healthcare costs.

An investment in better indoor air quality in the metal industry is thus both a health investment and a purely economic investment for Swedish companies active in modern metal processing.

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