Enforcement expectations by the HSE have been
strengthened for all welding fume, including mild steel welding; because
general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control. Control of the
cancer risk requires suitable engineering controls for all welding activities
indoors e.g. Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV). Extraction will also control
exposure to manganese, which is present in mild steel welding fume, which can
cause neurological effects similar to Parkinson’s disease.
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 your
welders are suitably instructed and trained in the use of any 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. See
below to find out what you need
During the next round of
inspections planned for January 2020-March 2020 HSE inspectors will be looking
- Assess the
management arrangements in place for the control of risks from exposure to asthmagens
- Complete a
check to see whether a suitable and sufficient risk assessment has been
completed, and identified asthmagens and/or carcinogens present at the
- Confirm if the
risk assessment identifies control measures to reduce exposures levels to as
low as is reasonably practicable.
- Check that
appropriate control measures, including extraction, respiratory protective
equipment (RPE) and other measures, to protect employees from exposure to
asthmagens and/or carcinogens are in place, and being used.
- Check if any
employees potentially exposed to asthmagens and/or carcinogens have received
adequate instruction and training in the health risks associated with exposure,
and why the correct use of equipment provided to control the risk is important.
Checks will be completed on Local Exhaust
Ventilation systems to ensure they are:
- Suitable for
the purpose for which they are being used
effective in extracting contaminant
- Used properly
by the worker
- Supplied with
a user manual and maintenance logbook
- Damaged or
have weak points, including damaged ducting or use of gaffer tape to repair
- Maintained and
inspected by a competent person (at least every 14 months)
In most situations, welding fume can be easily seen. If you can see that most of the fume is going up the extractor, then the position of the extractor is about right.
Actual exposure can only be accurately measured by
personal exposure monitoring.
The exact level of risk of
exposure to either the gases or particulate fumes will depend on a number of
- What process
you use (resistance welding, arc welding, flame or plasma cutting or gouging,
automated or manual etc.)
- How toxic the
welding fume is? This can vary greatly depending on the combination of the
welding technique and the type of metal being welded
- What filler
wire/ consumables you are using. Aluminium, carbon steel, stainless or hard
facing wires? Are you welding or cutting through any coatings, plating or
concentrated the fume is. This will depend on the set up of your working
environment and the degree of ventilation you have in place
- Where you’ll
be welding and cutting (indoor, outdoor, confined or restricted space?)
- How long you
are exposed to/breathing the fume. This will depend on length of the shift
being worked and the intensity of welding.
Check RPE is:
- Appropriately selected for the wearer
- Provided with face fit testing
- Used, maintained and stored correctly
- Check RPE is being examined at suitable intervals; there is no specific time limit but take into account
- The environment the RPE is used in
- The manufacturer’s instructions
- The amount of use when setting an appropriate maintenance schedule
- Check suitable cleaning methods used
- Check if health surveillance is provided where appropriate
- Check if exposure monitoring has been carried out and if not confirm that the decision can be justified
Please contact us if you require support and advice, prohibition and improvement notices are expensive and preventable.
If an HSE inspector visits, they will look at the workshop in general as well! Now is a good time to review, update and implement what is in place currently.