Following the publication of new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer the HSE have issued a safety alert for anyone who carries out welding activities, including mild steel, in any industry.
The evidence suggests that exposure to all welding fume, including mild steel welding fume, can cause lung (and possibly kidney) cancer. Based on this the HSE have changed their enforcement expectations, they state that:
- All businesses undertaking welding activities should ensure effective engineering controls 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.
“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.” For example because general ventilation is not considered to achieve the necessary level of control the HSE would expect appropriate Respiratory Protective Equipment to be provided for welding outdoors.
The full safety alert can be found on the HSE’s website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/safetybulletins/mild-steel-welding-fume.htm
Exactly what level of protection is required will depend on the individual circumstances, for example the material being welded, the method of welding and the duration of exposure. Further guidance can be found on the HSE’s website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/welding/index.htm
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