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HSE tightens UK welding fume control standards

As changes to UK welding fume control standards comes into force, are you covered?
The rules and regulations ensuring your workforce are protected from any toxic fumes during welding activities have changed. Research suggests that not providing your workforce with adequate protection could lead to ill health. New legislation will enforce that workers use the correct safety equipment both in an indoor and outdoor environment. The Health and Safety Executive released their bulletin detailing the changes in enforcement expectations for all welding fumes including mild steel welding fumes.

Below are a series of frequently asked questions to give you an overview of the new rules.

Will it affect my company?
Any employer undertaking any welding processes must comply to the new safety regulations. General ventilation does not protect the workforce to a safe enough degree. It is not just the welders that must be using protection, but anyone entering the surrounding premises where the welding is taking place. Employers must ensure their employees are suitably trained to follow the correct safety procedures and are aware of any recent updates to risk assessments.

What are the risks for poor ventilation for anyone exposed to welding and cutting fumes?
There is always an element of risk working around fumes and whilst some may not be affected others will become susceptible making it a danger to their health. Breathing in welding fumes has the potential to trigger pneumonia, asthma, cancer, metal fume fever, irritated throat and lungs and a temporary reduce lung function. This is why it is so important to make sure your staff are using the correct respiratory equipment so they are not breathing in any toxic fumes, which could hinder them in later life.

Do I need extraction or RPE equipment for welding fumes?
The answer very much depends on a case by case basis. For example, if you are just welding and hot cutting outdoors it is not necessary, but if you are welding stainless steel using MIG or MAG then extraction is needed. Arc air gouging will normally require both respiration protective equipment and fume extraction equipment.

What protection equipment do I need?
You will need to provide anyone surrounded by welding fumes with respiratory breathing equipment. A simple mask is no longer adequate. In some cases, it may be necessary to also provide a fume extraction system.

Are the rules different for an indoor and outdoor environment?
No, the same protective equipment and rules will need to be followed by any welding done no matter of the environment it is conducted. Suitable respiratory protective equipment needs to be used in order to protect your employees from residual fumes.

What Action do I require to reduce the risk of cancer-causing fumes?

Source: HSE
1. Make sure exposure to any welding fume released is adequately controlled using engineering controls (typically LEV).
2. Make sure suitable controls are provided for all welding activities, irrelevant of duration. This includes welding outdoors.
3. Where engineering controls alone cannot control exposure, then adequate and suitable RPE should be provided to control risk from any residual fume.
4. Make sure all engineering controls are correctly used, suitably maintained and are subject to thorough examination and test where required.
5. Make sure any RPE is subject to an RPE programme. An RPE programme encapsulates all the elements of RPE use you need to ensure that your RPE is effective in protecting the wearer.

If you’ve not completed all the actions it is time to ACT NOW!

Fercell engineering, industrial ventilation experts provide a number of fume extraction solutions. Whether you’re looking for standalone fume units to centralised systems, we can deliver an effective solution to control any dangerous fumes. For more information and advice get in touch with our specialist industrial ventilation team at Fercell on 01622 791414.

What action do I require to reduce the risk of cancer-causing fumes? Fercell welding fume safety tips Article references