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RR390 - Further investigation of possible musculoskeletal and cognitive deficit due to welding in divers identified in the ELTHI diving study

A questionnaire survey was conducted to assess the health of divers and welders. The aim of the study was to determine if the health impact of a career in diving and welding was greater than welding alone. The response rate was 48%, with 182 diver welders, 108 non-diver welders and 252 non-diver nonwelders completing the questionnaire. Complaints of cognitive and musculoskeletal symptoms were more common in diver welders than non-diver welders, and non-diver non-welders. In spite of this observation there was no convincing correlation between symptom complaint and welding exposure or diving experience. Welding fume exposure was significantly higher in non-divers than divers. Sixty percent of divers had welded at pressure, but the prevalence of symptom complaints in these divers did not differ from divers who had not welded at pressure. Further analysis of the ELTHI Diving study showed that among divers other factors, such as diving accidents and chemical exposures (eg contaminated breathing gas, petrochemicals and hydrogen sulphide), were associated with reported symptoms. Welding remained a significant predictor of cognitive but not musculoskeletal complaint after adjusting for diving experience, diving accidents, chemical exposure and lifestyle factors. In summary, these studies suggest that welders who dive have an increased the risk of cognitive complaint which is not observed in absence of diving. The cause of this remains unclear.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2010-03-19