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Controlling Health Risks in the Electronics Industry [Hardfacts]


One of the major health concerns in the electronics industry is exposure to fumes generated in soldering and electronic assembly processes. The rosin (colophony) fume generated from the fluxes used in core solders and the liquid fluxes used in dip soldering is a known respiratory sensitiser, which is liable to cause occupational asthma, rhinitis and conjunctivitis. However, there are a number of other health risks encountered in the electronic industry.

Health Risk Exposures

Core solders most widely contain rosin together with an amine hydrohalide activator. Liquid fluxes consist of rosin and activators dissolved in a suitable solvent, which may be either flammable or highly flammable. Binary solder alloys are most commonly based upon tin and lead. Ternary alloys comprise tin and lead plus one of the following: silver, indium, cadmium, copper or antimony. Solder creams are mixtures of pre-alloyed solder powders and fluxes comprising rosin, resins, solvents, activators and viscosity control additives.

The health risks associated with soldering operations in the electronics industry:

  • Rosin - flux fume: respiratory sensitisation and occupational asthma
  • Metal related hazards
  • Ignition of flammable solvent vapours
  • Corrosive fluxes - liquids and fume
  • Polyurethane enamelled wire soldering - toluene di-isocyanate fume
  • Solvent handling - vapours, dermatitis, spillage procedures
  • Solder bath cleaning
  • Vapour phase soldering - toxic thermal decomposition products
  • Solder creams - solvent discharge, fumes

The Legal Position

The use of hazardous chemicals - including respiratory sensitisers - in the workplace are subject to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) (COSHH).

Under COSHH you must assess the risks to health arising from the use of hazardous substances at work and apply the 8 good principles which include:

  • Assess the risks from substances hazardous to health
  • Decide what precautions are needed
  • Prevent or adequately control exposure
  • Ensure that control measures are used and maintained
  • Monitor the exposure
  • Carry out health surveillance if appropriate
  • Put in place procedures for emergencies and spillage's
  • Provide supervision, information, instruction and training to all employees

Key Action Steps

  • Ensure that all health risks to employees - especially respiratory sensitisers/occupational asthma - have been properly identified and assessed
  • Ensure that, wherever practicable, exposure to hazardous fumes are prevented, or if not practicable, are adequately controlled, ideally via total or partial enclosure of the fume generating process
  • If adequate control cannot be achieved, decide what alternative control measures are needed - local exhaust ventilation, personal protective equipment - and decide how to provide them
  • Maintain all control measures and ensure they are used
  • Monitor occupational exposure levels and compare with published standards, such as HSE Guidance Note EH 40: "Workplace Exposure Limits"
  • Provide health surveillance, as required
  • Provide necessary information, instruction and training
  • Review all COSHH assessments at least every two years or whenever there has been a change in the workplace or the process

Reference Documents

HSE Guidance Note EH 40 "Workplace Exposure Limits" - (Note Revised annually)

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Approved Code of Practice and Guidance (L5) 

Solder Fume and you IND(G)248L (Single copies free, ISBN 0 7176 1351 8 for priced packs).


Health surveillance for occupational dermatitis

Controlling airborne contaminants at work: A guide to local exhaust ventilation HSG258

COSHH Essentials:

Aviva Risk Management Solutions Hardfacts:

6008 The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations

6010 COSHH Assessments

6047 Solder Fume and Occupational Asthma in the Electronics Industry

6046 Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) in the Electronic Industry

Next Steps:

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  • View our Tools and Templates
  • Call our Risk Helpline on 0345 366 66 66
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Please Note
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.

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