Comprehensive and Effective Welding Fume Extraction Solutions...
Market-Leading Welding Fume Extraction Products
Welding fume extraction is the capture and removal of the contaminants, such as fumes generated during the welding process. In this welding extraction guide, we've detailed some helpful guidance about the best way to remove welding fumes from the workplace, the control measures and how to select the suitable control method for your business's processes.
At Auto Extract Systems, we offer various welding fume extraction systems for various industries and sectors. We're experts at capturing fumes in the workplace and safely removing them to help your business provide a pollution-free workplace. Our solutions include portable solutions to complex reverse pulse filtration systems.
Depending on your business's requirements, we'll help specify the right welding fume extraction system for your needs. We'll provide effective welding extraction and filtration solutions to protect workers from steels such as mild steel, stainless steel and aluminium.
Our welding fume extraction technology can help free your working environment from exposure to hazardous substances. Utilising the latestfume extraction technologies helps increase production and profitability and even creates energy-saving efficiencies.
The change in enforcement expectations came into place immediately after new scientific research came to light from the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which reclassified mild steel welding fume was reclassified as carcinogenic.
Subsequently, HSE advised that businesses must ensure that exposure from welding activities such as MIG/TIG welding should adequately be controlled using engineering controls, typically local exhaust ventilation (LEV).
In this blog, we've looked in more detail at the HSE's safety alert update concerning the change in enforcement expectations for mild steel welding fumes. Click here to read more.
What Are The Health Effects?
Welding fumes can cause various acute and chronic health problems, such as lung disease and cancer. If welding within a confined space, there is the hazard of suffocation. Other effects include skin and eye irritation, neurological problems, and ear damage. Respiratory health problems are the most common effects of inhaling fumes. Acute illness develops soon after exposure, while chronic diseases can gradually develop. The Health and Safety Executive has previously reported that around 40-50 welders each year are hospitalised after inhaling metal fume while working.
A further study conducted by the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC) in 2013 saw the HSE task the IIAC to examine the risk of lung cancer in welders. The Lung Cancer and Welding report findings, published in 2013, confirmed that: "It's probable (lung) carcinogenicity of welding fume."
The new evidence that came to light that stating: "There is sufficient evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of welding fumes to lung cancer. Whilst positive associations have also been observed for kidney cancer."
What are the Dangers of Welding Fume?
When working in an industrial setting, such as a fabrication and manufacturing workshop, one of the most significant dangers employees face is welding fume. Several research reports have been produced that document the significant health issues created by welding extraction. Due to how toxic the fumes can be, if they are inhaled, it can lead to severe problems. In particular, fumes are believed to cause lung and kidney cancer.
Learn more about the Dangers of Welding Fume. In this blog, we look at the compounds that make up welding fume, how the different compounds affect your body, the risks associated with exposure and the best control measures to reduce risk.
What Is in Welding Fumes?
Welding fumes can contain a wide range of substances, many of which can be harmful to a person's health if they are exposed. The composite of fumes can vary depending on certain factors. The welding process, the material and any coatings are three of the most important elements that can affect what welding fumes are made up of. Generally speaking, fumes comprise metallic oxides, silicates and fluorides. As the process takes place, the material's vapours condense into fine particles which create hazardous fumes. Toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide, ozone and nitrogen oxides, can also be emitted during welding.
What Are the Consequences of Breaching the Rules?
Health and safety regulations are in place to make sure that employers safeguard the health and well-being of their staff and visitors at all times. Failure to do so can lead to severe consequences, especially when welding fumes can cause dangerous health issues such as cancer.
The ultimate penalty for not following the regulations or implementing a welding fume extraction system is causing a person to have health problems or even loss of life. The Health and Safety Executive is in charge of enforcing workplace safety, and they have the power to issue warnings or fines. You may also be disqualified from the industry, or your business could suffer reputation damage. Last of all, in the most serious of incidents, you could face imprisonment.
It's apparent why businesses should go above and beyond to improve their workplace environments when dealing with welding extraction. You want to avoid financial ruin, negative PR, suspension, and imprisonment no matter what. Welding fumes can be extremely dangerous, and the Health and Safety Executive won't hold back in pursuing companies that don't treat the risk seriously. To describe the consequences in further detail, we will provide a summary of some real-life examples of businesses that have been punished.
In November 2021, a company in Merseyside was found guilty of repeated breaches of health and safety regulations. The firm broke several laws across eighteen months and failed to make improvements despite ten Enforcement Notices. The HSE investigated the company and identified a lack of health and safety controls, and management had limited safety competence and knowledge. Therefore, there was a significant employee risk, particularly concerning welding fumes and paint spray. The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £90,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,017. While it's not been reported that an accident occurred, failure to improve health and safety procedures is a critical concern, and the HSE ultimately pursued a damaging punishment.
How Much Welding Fume Is Too Dangerous?
The Health and Safety Executive offers legal guidance in the form of Workplace Exposure Limits, setting out how much harmful substances a person can inhale before it becomes too dangerous. Fumes can contain many toxic contaminants and therefore, it's more difficult to determine a safe and accurate limit unlike with other hazards. Therefore, there is currently no known level of safe exposure in terms of welding fume. Employers should do everything they can to minimise risk and ensure that welding fume extraction systems are in place to capture and dispose of the fumes.
What Type of Welding Fume Extraction Systems Are Available?
There are several types of welding fume extraction products that you can purchase. The best solution for your business will depend on your sector and working environment. For example, you may opt for an extraction arm. Arms are paired with centrifugal fans and allow you to capture fumes at the source. Extraction arms are easy to use and provide excellent coverage for capturing fumes throughout your workplace. Should you require a portable solution, you can go with a mobile welding fume extractor, perfect for flexible environments like vehicle workshops.
Another type of welding extractor system is a downdraught bench. These benches provide a fixed workstation for workers to perform their duties without breathing in harmful dust and fumes. A downdraught bench will draw the fumes downwards or backwards via a perforated work surface.
Then there is on-torch welding extraction, which captures fumes at the source while welding processes take place. Using a welding gun, this product draws away welding fumes when the concentration of harmful particulates is at the highest level.
You can find out more about our selection of welding extraction products below. Please contact us to speak to a member of our team who can advise on a tailored solution that fits you.
HSE then announced that they will be increasing the number of inspections they'll be carrying out across the UK. They aimed to educate businesses on 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.”
HSE Inspections 2021
HSE Letter 2021
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 operational 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 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.
Welding Fume Control
On the HSE's website, they have different guidance sheets depending on the task being undertaken. In HSE's WL3: Welding Fume Control guidance describes good control practices for a specific type of welding task, the frequency and duration of which it’s undertaken.
Frequency andDuration of Welding Activities
Frequency and duration of welding
Good Control Practice
Gas, MMA, FCA, MIG & MAG
LEV, good ventilation & RPE
Gas, MMA, FCA, MIG & MAG
LEV & supplementary RPE
Regular high-intensity outdoors
Gas, MMA, FCA, MIG, MAG, TIG
RPE, where LEV isn't practical
TIG & Resistance spot
TIG & Resistance spot
The guidance covers the points to follow to reduce exposure for the manual metal arch (MMA or stick); flux-cored arc (FCA), metal inert gas (MIG) and metal active gas (MAG), gas, tungsten inert gas (TIG) and resistance spot welding.
The guidance describes good control practices when using LEV, respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and general ventilation engineering controls. It advises that extracted air should be discharged outside the building to a safe place away from doors, windows and air inlets. It also states that it’s the exposure to the hazardous gases generated from welding processes that cause long and short-term health issues.
Please note The HSE advises that employers should provide RPE, such as face masks, as a secondary measure to help protect staff from residual fume exposure.
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.
HSE WL Guidance Series
After the reclassification and the enforcement expectations changed, HSE released new guidance for managers. In November 2019, the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) released revised task-specific COSHH guidance for welding, cutting and allied jobs to help managers make sure that exposure to all kinds of fume is controlled in the workplace.
In November 2019, after the reclassification and the enforcement expectations changed, the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) released revised task-specific COSHH guidance for managers. The COSHH Essentials for Welding, Cutting and Allied Tasks [WL] series guidance broke down metal working tasking into three core sections, welding, cutting and allied jobs. The guidance is there to help employers, duty-holders and managers make sure that exposure to all kinds of welding fume is controlled in the workplace. These include:
If you’re dealing with welding fumes, you’ll need to provide exposure control measures to reduce the health risks for employees. HSE recommend that you should follow the 'Hierarchy of Control' flow diagram to determine how best to remove or reduce the risk of exposure in the workplace.
To control the risk of welding fumes and protect workers to make your workplace a safer place to work in three easy to follow steps:
Avoid or reduce exposure
Use local exhaust ventilation (LEV) to remove the fume, with the use of a welding fume extraction system.
Use suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to protect workers from inhaling fumes.
In many scenarios, avoiding or reducing welding process exposure isn't going to be practical for your business's operations. There are many different types of welding extraction equipment solutions on the market. HSE has made recommendations on which activities require LEV, including:
Moderate to high volume MAG MIG welding, small or medium-sized part production, welding on a bench; or in a screened-off area. Welding on carbon mild steels and aluminium;
High volume production welding using TIG on stainless steels or aluminium;
Welding of stainless steels for stick welding, using MIG, MAG, Flux-cored or MMA;
Arc air gouging;
Welding or hot cutting galvanised materials (e.g. zinc plated);
Welding or hot cutting materials containing cadmium, painted with lead or chromate paints
Automated cutting of flame or plasma requires LEV extraction, but this is usually built-in
Automated multi-head resistance welding machines.
HSE Recommended Welding Fume Extraction Equipment
HSE has also made recommendations on which welding extraction solutions too, these include:
1. On-Torch Welding Extraction
On Torch Welding Extraction
MIG welding torches, within with on-torch welding extraction offer a complete solution to the current HSE requirements as they remove the weld fumes away at-source. According to the most recent HSE fume facts, this is where the concentration of harmful substances will be highest, in what is called the 'plume of fume' that rise at the immediate point from the welding arc.
3. Downdraught Benches
Downdraught benches provide the user with a workstation that captures dust and fumes whilst working. They are ideal in industrial working environments for dust and fume extraction and industrial processes, such as welding and grinding dust extraction. They remove harmful substances directly from the operator’s breathing zone.
3. Moveable LEV
All variations of extraction arms provide an ideal solution to capture fumes at-source, providing it's being used properly by the operator.
Extraction Arms - Fixed extraction arm LEV systems are proven to be a very popular and diverse product for our LEV installations as they provide at-source extraction and remove the pollutant from the workplace before it has the opportunity to dissipate into the workplace.
Tubular Extraction Arms - These solutions feature a tubular structure and are ideal for tough working environments and industrial processes and have less pressure loss.
Mobile Welding Fume Extractor - A portable solution that features a two or three-metre-long externally-supported extraction arm, which can be moved around a workpiece or workplace.
How to Control Welding Fume Exposure
Once a formal risk COSHH assessment has been completed, prevention of fume exposure should be the first objective. Fume can easily be eliminated from the workplace with personal protective equipment and suitable engineering controls.
In the majority of cases, the most effective method of extracting airborne substances, such as fume is to capture at-source. We always recommended at-source extraction and depending on the working processes undertaken. This prevents fume and gases from dispersing into the broader working environment because of cross draughts and air movements, which can reduce the LEV system's efficiency.
Welding can be a dangerous process, whether used for work or a hobby, so it's essential to take steps to protect yourself and others. As well as the airborne risk of welding fumes that we've covered in this guide, health risks of welding also include electrical and fire hazards, eye injuries, slips and trips, noise pollution, radiation exposure, and more. Therefore, the safety equipment you need to protect yourself far transcends LEV systems.
The essential health and safety equipment you need when welding can include:
Welding fume extraction - See above for extraction solutions to eliminate welding fumes from polluting the workspace.
Gloves - Helps prevent burns and cuts during the welding process.
Welding helmet and/or safety goggles - Will protect the head and eyes from sparks, radiation and debris that can fly off while welding.
Ear defenders - Welding can be noisy, so it's best to protect your hearing and ears from loud noises.
Safety boots - Suitable footwear will safeguard you against the threat of falling objects and hot metal.
Welding clothing - You should wear appropriate attire that is flame-resistant and protects your body from hazards.
The HSE request you to only employ competent experienced specialist LEV trained companies when making these important decisions. Specifying an appropriate welding fume extraction system has many facets including, the products encountered, the quantity and allowed exposure to that contaminant, airflow rates required against WELs (Workplace Exposure Limits).
Checklist to Help You to Choose the Right LEV Supplier
Checklist - How to Choose a Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) Supplier
If you’re in the market for a new Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) system, it can be a tough decision to decide which is the best LEV solutions provider to choose. We want to help, so we’ve assembled a checklist (and article) to help guide you to select the right LEV supplier for your business and requirements. Visit our article on How to Choose a Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) Supplier and download the checklist.
Learn How We Helped Businesses Like Yours
To find out more about the latest dust extraction LEV installations we've been working on, check out our Case Studies section.
Request Your FREE LEV Site Assessment Today!
We'll call to arrange a convenient time and date to visit your site. We'll analyse your working processes, assess the substances used and the contaminants generated. We'll work out how best to control the dust and fume in a way that's in line with your COSHH risk assessment. Next, we'll design you a comprehensive LEV system that adheres to HSG258 guidance and send this you to via email.
We'll do all this to ensure we fully understand your dust and fume extraction requirements and help you to provide a pollution-free workplace!
This is an amazing service we do for thousands of businesses throughout the UK and Ireland every year. We work with such a wide variety of industries, from manufacturing, industrial, woodworking, pharmaceutical and automotive workshops to schools, colleges and military establishments.
Request your FREE, no-obligation LEV site assessment today!
Auto Extract Systems is the UK’s leading Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) company. Over the last 20 years, we've helped thousands of businesses create dust and fume free workplaces.
As experts in all things LEV, we can help your business become COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) Regulation 2002 compliant with a tailored LEV solution. We provide comprehensive design, installation, maintenance and certification services across a range of industry sectors. Find out more about us here.
BOHS Welding Selector Tool
With such a wide range of welding extraction systems available, it can be hard to know the right method of LEV for your business. Although this is all dependant on how much welding your business is completing on a monthly. BOHS (the British Occupational Hygiene Society) have created a welding selector tool - a web-based tool to help businesses with welding fume control guidance. It's been assembled by a panel of industry experts, including (consultancies, academia and the HSE) to inform managers and supervisors of the best control methods for welding fume. However, the tool is not a substitute for thorough workplace COSHH risk assessments.
How does the Welding Selector Tool work?
It works by prompting you to answer four simple task-related questions and the tool will then generate a guidance sheet with the recommended extraction control solution. The tool ranks extraction solutions on a one-to-five star rating, based on the effectiveness of the control.
The tool also takes into consideration the reliability of the control solution and how effective it is to minimise exposure consistently. The control method is heavily dependent on the worker adopting a good working practice, whenever working towards the control to be as low as reasonably practical.
BOHS Control and Management Guidance Sheets
On the BOHS's welding selection tool, there's welding fume control sheets available for managers and duty holders, which, depending on the answers selected whilst using the tool, a control sheet is produced with the ideal exposure control solution. Controls sheets are available to download here.
In addition to control sheets, there's also management guidance sheets available to download (click here). There are five sheets that download,
Installation, Commission, Maintenance and testing
Respiratory Health Surveillance Checks and
Training and Supervision of Welders
The management guidance sheets are beneficial to managers and duty holders to educate and inform how to effectively control the risk, but also to protect workers from occupational lung disease.
Industry processes we can add value to:
Welding fume extraction
Brazing fume extraction
Solder fume extraction
General ventilation fume and heat extraction
Industrial fume extraction
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Request My FREE Site Assessment
We'll call to arrange a convenient time and date to visit your site. We'll analyse your working processes, assess the substances used and the contaminants generated. We'll workout how best to control the dust and fume in a way that's in line with your COSHH risk assessment.