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HSE Increase Enforcement Expectations for Mild Steel Welding Fume

Posted on October 11, 2019

Following the release of new studies from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, it has been shown that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause illnesses such as lung cancer, and possibly kidney cancer. As a result of this, The Workplace Health Expert Committee has reclassified mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen.

Because of this reclassification, the Health and Safety Executive have immediately strengthened the enforcement expectations for all welding fume, including mild steel welding fume. They have also stated that general ventilation does not achieve the necessary levels of control.

Controlling Risk

Workplaces will require suitable engineering controls to mitigate the risk of employees contracting cancer because of welding activities indoors. Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) will be needed in these instances. LEV will also help control any exposure to manganese, another material present in mild steel welding fume. This can cause neurological effects similar to Parkinson’s disease.

Those in charge of businesses conducting welding activities also need to be aware that there could be instances where Local Exhaust Ventilation alone is not an adequate measure. When this is the case, adequate and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) should be provided to employees to protect against residual fume.

Respiratory protective equipment should also be provided when welding is taking place outdoors. Any worker who will be undertaking welding outdoors needs to be trained in the use of these control equipment.

It is important to note that the HSE will not be taking in to account the length of the welding taking place when looking for health and safety breaches. This is because there is no level of exposure which is deemed safe.

Risk assessments and health and safety policies will need to be reviewed and changed if necessary, following the change in what is now expected from control measures.

HSE Guidance

The HSE has released the following list as action points following the changes. You must ensure you are acting on this list:

    • Make sure exposure to any welding fume released is adequately controlled using engineering controls (typically LEV).
    • Make sure suitable controls are provided for all welding activities, irrelevant of duration. This includes welding outdoors.
    • Where engineering controls alone cannot control exposure, then adequate and suitable RPE should be provided to control risk from any residual fume.
    • Make sure all engineering controls are correctly used, suitably maintained and are subject to thorough examination and test where required.
    • Make sure any RPE is subject to an RPE  programme. An RPE programme encapsulates all the elements of RPE use you need to ensure that your RPE is effective in protecting the wearer.

If would like more information on the changes made to Mild Steel Welding Fume enforcement, contact us today and we can talk you though your requirements.

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