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HSE Welding Updates

HSE have released new updates regarding the safety requirements for welding

19 November 2019

In February 2019 HSE issued a safety alert to inform industry of a change in relation to the control expectations for exposure to welding fume including that from mild steel welding.

With reference to a HSE eBulletin dated 12 November 2019 the HSE has now revised its guidance, the following details the updates made.

  • There is scientific evidence that exposure to all welding fume, including mild steel welding fume, can cause lung cancer.
  • There is also limited evidence linked to kidney cancer.
  • There is a change in HSE enforcement expectations in relation to the control of exposure of welding fume, including that from mild steel welding.
  • All businesses undertaking welding activities should ensure effective engineering controls such as portable local exhaust ventilation (LEV) are provided and correctly used to control fume arising from those welding activities.
  • Where engineering controls are not adequate to control all fume exposure, adequate and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is also required to control risk from the residual fume.
  • Where LEV alone does not adequately control exposure, it should be supplemented by adequate and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to protect against the residual fume.
  • Appropriate RPE should be provided for welding outdoors. You should ensure welders are suitably instructed and trained in the use of these controls.

Regardless of duration, HSE will no longer accept any welding undertaken without any suitable exposure control measures in place, as there is no known level of safe exposure. If welding is part of your work activity, you must carry out a risk assessment to identify what measures are required to control the risks from exposure to welding fume.

  • Regular welders are categorized as those welders who will weld for most of their shift and carry out different types of welding and other associated activities in the same day, depending on the requirements of their job. Their exposure to welding fume will be regular and of a significant duration or high intensity. They will require adequate controls to protect them from the risk of developing occupational lung diseases.
  • Sporadic welders are categorized as those welders who will carry out welding infrequently when it is incidental to their main manufacturing operation. Engineered fume controls will not normally be expected for occasional welding carried out less than once each week and lasting less than 1 hour. In these situations, ensure that respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and good general ventilation is provided to control exposure to welding fume. But, you must also consider the protection of others nearby and ensure the general ventilation is effective at removing and dispersing the welding fume – For example, a car mechanic wearing RPE with good general ventilation in the workplace, carrying out an occasional short welding job on a car with a broken exhaust support bracket, would meet the minimum requirement for compliance.

If you would like to review the full HSE document please see the links below

Welding fume: protect your workers

COSHH guidance for welding, cutting and allied jobs

Or if you require any further advice or guidance on how to control the risks from welding please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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