With the growing realisation that there are significant risks of lung and kidney cancer from mild steel welding fume to welders, the HSE workplace health expert committee has endorsed the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen. There are concerns over neurological damage also.
The consequences for this process are the introduction of better control measures and health surveillance. With immediate effect as of March 2019 there is a strengthening of the HSE’s enforcement expectation for the control of welding fume because general ventilation is not considered effective.
Controlling the engineering environment
Engineering controls such as LEV (local exhaust ventilation) for all indoor welding will be necessary which need to be supplemented with RPE (respiratory protective equipment) appropriately fit tested. RPE should be used for outdoor welding also and suitable and sufficient information, instruction and training given to welders.
Irrespective of exposure duration the HSE will no longer accept any welding undertaken without suitable exposure control.
Further health surveillance, spirometry should be implemented to monitor health and well-being of welders.
Caunce O’Hara’s Risk Manager Steve Haines has contacted affected clients to update these recent changes which came in with immediate effect and acknowledges the effort now required by businesses to achieve compliance. “This is a massive change, almost overnight, and challenges affected companies to quickly remedy long standing exposure issues. Although risk assessment should have highlighted these concerns it is only with the benefit of ongoing scientific research into work place ill effects that we can protect the health of workers”.
For further information and advice on compliance with HSE requirements please consult our Risk Manager.