Earlier this month, the HSE issued a safety alert about the change in enforcement expectations for mild steel welding fumes, which begs the question to be asked… Does your business comply and have adequate welding fume extraction?
HSE’s Mild Steel Welding Fumes Enforcement Expectation
The reclassification will see the HSE’s enforcement expectation for mild steel welding fumes come into force with immediate effect, this is primarily because general ventilation does not provide the necessary control required to safely protect workers. Read the HSE’s full bulletin here.
The change in the HSE’s stance is aimed at improving air quality for all workers, employers, the self-employed, contractors’ and any others who undertake welding activities (including mild-steel) in any industry. The HSE will no longer tolerate welding activities without any suitable exposure control measures, regardless of the duration of the activities. The HSE know of no safe level of exposure and advise that risk assessments should be immediately adjusted to reflect this change in control measures.
The HSE advises that to minimise and reduce the risk of causing cancer in the workplace you should use of a local exhaust ventilation (LEV) system to control the manganese fumes given off during the welding process.
The Risk to Human Health
New scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has come to light that exposure to mild steel welding fumes can cause lung cancer, possibly kidney cancer and neurological effects similar to Parkinson’s disease in humans. Subsequently, the Workplace Health Expert Committee has endorsed the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen.
Get HSE Weld Fume Compliant
Auto Extract Systems can assist your business in becoming HSE weld fume compliant. We are fully accustomed to dealing with LEV extraction systems for all kinds of working environments; from small welding working areas to fully-fledged manufacturing plants, where welding is a core business activity.
HSE’s Control Measures
HSE instantly put out suitable exposure control measures to help control the cancer risk. Exposure from activities such as MIG/TIG welding should adequately be controlled using engineering controls, typically local exhaust ventilation (LEV). Where LEV controls are put in place, they should be suitably instructed and trained and suitably maintained where required. This includes being subjective to an LEV test every 14 months.
After the reclassification in 2019, HSE has announced that they will be increasing the number of inspections they’ll be carrying out across the UK. Their aim was to educate businesses the risk of welding fume, amongst other hazards in the workplace to help and encourage them to provide the necessary engineering controls to control exposure.
Employers should be using local exhaust ventilation where effective and provide suitable respiratory protective equipment where necessary to protect workers in the metal fabrication industry from inhaling fumes.
John Rowe, Head of Manufacturing at HSE said: “Employers and workers should know the risk, plan their work and use the right controls when welding activity is carried out. If they are not HSE will use enforcement to bring about improvements.
“It is our mission that all workers are protected and are not made ill or killed by their work. Everyone should be able to leave work and go home healthy and safe.”
2021 HSE Inspections
In 2021, the HSE prepared fabricated metals businesses for inspections by writing to them and requesting them to sign a declaration. The declaration was to confirm whether the business undertook either welding or metalworking fluid (MWF) activities and whether or not they are adequately controlling exposures. The information gathered from the declarations is being used for operation purposes.
The HSE are continuing to increase their focus on the risks from welding fume and metalworking fluids with targeted inspections between May and September 2021. HSE advise that businesses may be visited by one of their inspectors to ensure that you are complying with the law by assessing the health and safety risks in your workplace and the ensuring the appropriate control measures are in places. HSE advise that any key health and safety risks to employees in your workplace are addressed from exposures.
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What Happens Next…
We’ve helped businesses all across the UK get HSE weld fume compliant. Head to our Case Studies section to see how we’ve helped businesses with awesome LEV systems that have helped the business provide pollution-free workplaces for their staff.
Get in Touch Today
To find out more information about welding fume LEV extraction, please contact us via email, or call us for a no-obligation discussion on 01942 267444. In addition, keep in touch with us on our social media channels, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for updates.