Welding Fumes. Protecting Your Workforce

Recently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has suggested that welding fume exposure including fume generated when welding Mild Steel can cause a range of cancers including kidney cancer. This means that ALL companies must protect their workers from the harmful welding fumes by minimising the potential exposure not only of employees but also of sub-contractors and visitors to site and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has made it clear to all of their Inspectors to ensure adequate control measures are in place.

The Workplace Health Expert Committee has endorsed the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a “human carcinogen” and, because general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control, controls need to be in place irrespective of the duration of any welding activity. This applies to specialist welders and workers who do some welding as well as all those who enter or pass through an area where these fumes are being generated no matter how small the amount organisations so they must put controls in place.

Suitable engineering controls, eg LEV, must be used for all welding activities indoors and general ventilation or outdoor welding is no longer considered as an acceptable preventative measure. Welding fume is now subject to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations and control of the cancer risk will require suitable engineering controls for all welding activities indoors e.g. Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV).

Actions you need to take –
• 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.

Western Air Ducts are experts in the field of dust and fume extraction and offer engineered solutions to all workplace fume and dust issues as well as statutory COSHH LEV Testing. This means we can advise you on what you need to do to make sure you comply, carry out the professional testing in accordance with HSE Guidance HSG258 as well as implement the right systems for your business to keep you and your workforce safe.

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