HSE SAFETY ALERT: CHANGE IN ENFORCEMENT EXPECTATIONS FOR MILD STEEL WELDING FUME

The Health & Safety Executive have issued the following safety alert last month (February 2019), aimed at all workers, employers, self-employed, contractors’ and any others who undertake welding activities, including mild steel, in any industry:

KEY ISSUES

  • There is new scientific evidence that exposure to all welding fume, including mild steel welding fume, can cause lung cancer.
  • There is also limited evidence linked to kidney cancer.
  • There is a change in HSE enforcement expectations in relation to the control of exposure of welding fume, including that from mild steel welding.
  • 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.

INTRODUCTION

There is new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans. The Workplace Health Expert Committee has endorsed the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen.

CONSEQUENCES

With immediate effect, there is a strengthening of HSE’s enforcement expectation for all welding fume, including mild steel welding; because general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control.

OUTCOME

Control of the cancer risk will require 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 welders are suitably instructed and trained in the use of these 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.

Risk assessments should reflect the change in the expected control measures.

ACTION REQUIRED

  • Make sure exposure to any welding fume released is adequately controlled using engineering controls (typically LEV).
  • Make sure suitable controls are provided for all welding activities, irrelevant of duration. This includes welding outdoors.
  • Where engineering controls alone cannot control exposure, then adequate and suitable RPE should be provided to control risk from any residual fume.
  • Make sure all engineering controls are correctly used, suitably maintained and are subject to thorough examination and test where required.
  • 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.

RELEVANT LEGAL DOCUMENTS

  • Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002

REFERENCES

WELDING FUME – REDUCING THE RISK

The above HSE guidance can be viewed by clicking on the link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/welding/fume-welding.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence

 

WORKING TOGETHER TO BEAT OCCUPATIONAL CANCER – IOSH’S ‘NO TIME TO LOSE’ CAMPAIGN

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The subject of our news update this week is occupational cancer and more specifically, the Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH) ‘No Time to Lose’ campaign which aims to get carcinogenic exposure issues more widely understood and help businesses take action. You can visit the campaign website at www.notimetolose.org.uk.

ABOUT WORK CANCER

Cancer caused by what people do at work is nothing new. One of the first official cases of an occupational cancer was identified in the eighteenth century.

Asbestos is the best known carcinogen – and the biggest killer. Today, asbestos claims well over 100,000 lives a year worldwide. It’s estimated that 10 million people across the world will have died as a result of asbestos exposure before it’s been fully controlled. But there are many other carcinogenic exposures that cause cancer and claim lives – well over 50 substances are listed as known or probable causes of workplace cancer. Across the EU, 1 in 5 workers faces an occupational cancer risk. Across the world, the number of people dying from a work-caused cancer far outstrips those dying because of work accidents. It’s estimated that at least 666,000 people die worldwide every year*.

Recent research has built the most comprehensive picture to date for a single country. A research team led by Dr Lesley Rushton of Imperial College, London, linked thousands of cancer deaths with different occupations. It found:

  • almost 14,000 new cases of cancer caused by work are registered each year
  • around 8,000 deaths a year are caused by occupational cancer.

ABOUT IOSH’S CAMPAIGN

IOSH’s No Time to Lose campaign aims to get carcinogenic exposure issues more widely understood and help businesses take action. The campaign is working to:

  • raise awareness of a significant health issue facing workers in the UK and internationally
  • suggest some solutions on a UK scale to tackle the problem – a national model that can be transposed internationally
  • offer free practical, original materials to businesses to help them deliver effective prevention programmes.

GOT A QUESTION?

Have a question about work-related cancers or managing carcinogenic exposures? IOSH’s expert panel can help you.

They aim to answer all your questions within seven working days and will share questions and answers on the website. All questions they post online are anonymous.

View answers to questions that have been asked so far

Click on the link http://www.notimetolose.org.uk/Ask-the-experts/Questions-answered.aspx#attributable to view the panel’s answers to questions that have been asked so far.

Or ask a new question

Got a question about work-related cancers or managing carcinogenic exposures?

IOSH’s expert panel aims to answer all your questions within seven working days and will share questions and answers on the website. All questions they post online are anonymous. Click on the link http://www.notimetolose.org.uk/Ask-the-experts/Ask-a-question.aspx to ask a question.

IS YOUR BUSINESS AFFECTED?

With information packs on silica dust, solar radiation and diesel exhaust emissions, IOSH’s resource library helps you take action and raise awareness where you work. New packs are added throughout the year. Click on the link http://www.notimetolose.org.uk/Free-resources.aspx to get access.

GET INVOLVED

Click on the link http://www.notimetolose.org.uk/Get-involved/Supporters-A-to-I.aspx to find out which organisations are already supporting the campaign and to find out how you can show your formal support.

Pledge to take action

Click on the link http://www.notimetolose.org.uk/Get-involved/Pledge-to-take-action.aspx to join the growing number of businesses leading on this issue and sign up to the pledge.

 

*Estimate of 666,000 global work-related cancer deaths annually: ‘Roles of occupational safety and health organisations in global and regional prevention strategies’, Takala et al., International Commission on Occupational Health, 2009.