HSE Raise Control Standards for Mild Welding Fume

Posted by Lizzie Allen 19 March 2019

Welding Fumes

Scientific evidence released by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has shown that exposure to mild steel welding fume and UV radiation from welding can cause lung cancer and, potentially, kidney cancer too. As a result, mild steel welding fume and associated UV radiation have been reclassified as Group 1 human carcinogens.

What's Changed?

In response to the reclassification, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has raised enforced control measures for welding operations in any industry in the UK, as general ventilation doesn't achieve necessary control.

The news was shared with the Industry and Regulatory Forum on Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) on 14th January, and has been reiterated in a subsequent Safety Alert.

  • Exposure to any welding fume must be adequately controlled using engineering controls (such as LEV).
  • Suitable control measures must be applied for all welding activities, no matter welding duration. This includes outdoor welding.
  • Employers must ensure workers are adequately trained in the use of any exposure controls (e.g. RPE, LEV). If LEV is unable to control fume capture, then RPE (Respiratory Protective Equipment) must be provided and used to control risk.
  • All engineering controls must be correctly used, maintained, examined and tested (under COSHH Regulation 9 if needed).
  • RPE must be subject to an RPE programme, which includes all elements of RPE to ensure effective protection for the wearer.
  • Work involving cutting and burning can also create metal fume, similar to that produced during welding.
  • Employers are urged to review risk assessments and control measures in relation to the reclassification.
  • Enforcement of the raised control standards is immediate, under COSHH Regulation 7.

What Is Welding Fume?

Welding fume is a varied mix of airborne particles, gases and vapours which are commonly produced from heated molten metal materials.

These fumes can cause a range of negative health effects - hence HSE's raised control measures.

It's important to understand that general ventilation isn't enough to properly control welding fume exposure. As such, you'll need to make use of far more effective engineering controls. For example, indoor welding tasks require the use of LEV which enables at-source fume extraction. This stops welding fume from spreading around a workplace and entering a worker's breathing zone.

If LEV isn't enough to control fume capture, then RPE must be used, even for outdoor welding.

Please note: the HSE won't accept any welding which is carried out without necessary exposure control measures in place. This is because there are no known levels of safe exposure.

Our Solution

We work with UK manufacturers and accredited RPE Fit2Fit testers to make sure all your workers are fully compliant and protected at work. We also provide 'Train the Trainer' sessions, so your supervisors are able to complete face fit testing on staff.

Additionally, as a major PPE supplier, we offer a wide range of RPE.

Tight-fitting Disposable Masks

  • Single-shift use, 8 hours max.
  • Requires the worker to be clean shaven (every day).
  • Requires the worker to be face fit tested for each individual mask.

Semi-Disposable Masks, Press 2 Check

  • Uses filters with average 28 day lifespan.
  • Mask unit is completely washable to enable long-lasting wear-life.
  • Requires the worker to be clean shaven (every day).
  • Requires the worker to be face fit tested for each individual mask.

Jetstream Welder Kit

  • Positive air pressure.
  • Doesn't require the worker to be clean shaven.
  • Doesn't require face fit testing.

You can also check out our core range of RPE products by downloading our catalogue or buying online. Otherwise, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us today!