Welding Fume: Are You Compliant?

Following the occupational exposure changes for welding fumes, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is strengthening its enforcement action and compliance.

Introduction

In February 2019, the HSE issued the STUS1 bulletin which targets all workers, employers, self-employed, contractors’ and any others who undertake welding activities, including mild steel, in any industry. The HSE has been proactively writing to businesses making them aware of the health concerns, the control measures, regulations & compliance and their intention to prosecute should the business fail to comply.

The HSE is now more visible, visiting businesses unannounced and clamping down on business owners that are not putting control measures in place to protect the health and safety of their employees. 

 

Health Risks

Occupational lung-related diseases kill 12,000 UK workers and 400,000 working days are lost per year. Welding fume is now internationally classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

You need to be aware that personal exposure to all welding fume has the capability of causing serious conditions these are particularly prevalent within the manufacturing industry.

Welders are particularly at risk when it comes to airborne contaminants. The hazards of contaminant exposure can affect welders through inhalation, dermal absorption or ingestion, resulting in respiratory, digestive, nervous and reproductive disorders.

If you carry out any type of welding activity as part of your work, you need to understand the associated health risks;

  1. Lung and kidney cancer from both mild and stainless steel welding fume,
  2. Silicosis from silica dust,
  3. Nasal cancer and asthma from wood dust,
  4. Asthma and other forms of lung damage from metalworking fluid mist

HSE Focus in 2020

For welders, manganese, present in mild steel, is the most dangerous of components. It can cause neurological effects similar to Parkinson’s disease. HSE inspectors are particularly focusing on manganese as a priority in 2020.

What Do I Need To Do?

It’s important that you understand the risks, plan your work and use the right controls when welding.

  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. Make sure all engineering controls are correctly used, suitably maintained and are subject to thorough examination and test where required.
  4. Where engineering controls alone cannot control exposure, then adequate and suitable RPE should be provided to control risk from any residual fume.
  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.

Who Suffers as a Result of Exposure?

Employers need to perform an ongoing assessment of welding fume and smoke exposure to make sure they are below the acceptable limits.

Although welders themselves are the people whose health is threatened by welding fume, employers too may suffer if they fail to take the appropriate steps to protect their workers.

Employers shown to be negligent can face prosecution.

By issuing your workers with the right personal protective equipment, you'll be able to demonstrate that you are properly protecting your workers’ health and satisfying the visiting HSE inspector.

Respiratory Protective Equipment

Respiratory Protection Equipment, Air fed welding helmets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Air fed masks are worn to protect the workers from respirable welding dust and fumes. RPE is recommended for all types of arc welding in a well-ventilated area.

The filter and fan are mounted on the waist belt of this battery-powered welding kit. It delivers purified air to the welder via the flexible hose at the back of the unit.

The filtered air can help to keep the welder cool and would be more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time thus improving production and efficiency.

A face fit test is not required for powered air respirators with loose-fitting head tops. Like the Z4; the head top doubles as a welding visor providing respiratory protection against welding fumes plus the protection for eyes and head you need from a welding mask.

Try Before You Buy

Once you've worn the RPB Safety respirators, you'll see how much more lightweight, comfortable and adaptable they are compared to your usual respirators. So take advantage of our free try before you buy service. Request a call back so we can set up your trial.