This is an official guidance note from GSA, April 2014.

Health and Safety Guidance Note

Soldering and Brazing

An overview of the risk and precautions required when carrying out soldering tasks.

The Law

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) 2002 (as amended 2004)

What does the Law require?

An assessment must be made of all soldering activities and appropriate precautions put in place to protect those carrying out the tasks.

Practical issues

On contact with the skin, rosin-based solder flux can cause dermatitis. Fume from rosin-based solder flux can also cause occupational asthma and lead to irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract.
Cadmium oxide fume from silver solder can result in minor ill-health problems such as irritation of the eyes, nose and throat up to more serious ill-health such as lung and kidney problems if exposed over longer periods.
Where possible, rosin-based solder flux and silver solder containing cadmium should not be used and alternatives sought.

Where people solder for short periods of time in a room with satisfactory general ventilation, the potential exposure is very low and it is not reasonably practicable or necessary to provide safety equipment. However, for workstation where people may do soldering for 4 hours or more, a simple extractor fan with filter should be used to capture fume.

Any extract system used should be tested on a regular basis at least every 12 months.
Staff and students should be warned to avoid breathing fumes in a suitable written induction.

Hand protection when using rosin-based flux is advisable.

Of course respiratory protection should be the last resort but if soldering is being carried out for a limited time is a position where it is difficult to avoid inhaling some fume, then a simple disposable mask suitable for fume should be worn - such as 3 M'S 9332 Dust/Fume/Mist respirator.
Skin contact with solder flux should be avoided although with multi-core solder this is not thought to be a problem.

Staff should be informed of the risks and the measures they need to take to prevent ill-health.
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Staff and students should have access to suitable washing facilities.

Safety Tips

In soldering and brazing, there is always the possibility of dangerous fumes and gases rising from base metal coatings, ink and cadmium-bearing filler metals, and from fluorides in fluxes. The following well-tested precautions should be followed to guard against any hazard from these fumes.

1. Ventilate confined areas. Use ventilating fans and exhaust hoods to carry all fumes and gases away from work, and air supplied respirators as required.
2. Clean base metals thoroughly. A surface contaminant of unknown composition on base metals may add to fume hazard and may cause a too rapid breakdown of flux, leading to over heating and fuming.
3. Use sufficient flux. Flux protects base metals and filler metal during heating cycle. Full flux coverage reduces fuming. Also, consult your MSDS regarding specific hazards associated with brazing flux.
4. Heat metals broadly. Heat the base metals broadly and uniformly. Intense localized heating uses up flux, increases danger of fuming. Apply heat only to base metals, not to filler metal (direct flame on filler metal causes overheating and fuming).
5. Know your base metals. A cadmium coating on a base metal will volatilize and produce toxic fume during heating. Zinc coatings (galvanized) will also fume when heated. Learn to recognize these coatings. It is recommended that they be removed before parts are heated for brazing.
6. Know your filler metals. Be especially careful not to overheat assembly when using filler metals that contain cadmium. Consult the Material Safety Data Sheet for maximum recommended brazing temperatures of a specific filler metal. The filler metal carries a warning label. Be sure to look for it and follow the instructions carefully.
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Web links

HSE - Solder fume and you
HSE - Cadmium in silver soldering or brazing
HSE - Soldering fume from rosin-cored solder
HSE webpage - solderers and asthma
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