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

 

HEALTH & SAFETY NEWS UPDATE – 25TH AUGUST 2016

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Fire and explosion – worker suffers serious burns after clothing catches fire

A foundry has been fined £15,000 plus £9,000 costs after a worker suffered serious burns when his clothing caught fire.

Bradford Crown Court heard how an employee of the foundry was undertaking work involving the use of isopropanol and a paint-like solution. The bucket containing the solution caught fire which then set light to his clothes, causing serious burns.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which occurred in August 2014 found that the company failed to provide adequate training, work equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector John Boyle said:

“A worker was left with serious injuries as a result of this incident. Had the company taken a number of simple measures prior to the work activity taking place – such as the provision of suitable work equipment, training and personal protective equipment – then it may well have been avoided.”

About dangerous substances

Explosive atmospheres can be caused by flammable gases, mists or vapours or by combustible dusts. If there is enough of a substance, mixed with air, then all it needs is a source of ignition to cause an explosion.

Each year people are injured at work by flammable substances accidentally catching fire or exploding. Work which involves using or creating chemicals, vapours, liquids, gases, solids or dusts that can readily burn or explode is hazardous.

The effects of an explosion or a fire in the workplace can be devastating in terms of lives lost, injuries, significant damage to property and the environment, and to the business community.

Most fires are preventable, dealing with workplace process fire safety is important and those responsible for workplaces and other non domestic premises to which the public have access can avoid them by taking responsibility for and adopting fire safe behaviours and procedures.

Liquids

Liquids (such as petrol and other fuels) and solvents in industrial products (such as paint, ink, adhesives and cleaning fluids) give off flammable vapour which, when mixed with air, can ignite or explode. The ease by which liquids give off flammable vapours is linked to a simple physical test called Flashpoint (ie. the minimum temperature at which a liquid, under specific test conditions, gives off sufficient flammable vapour to ignite momentarily on the application of an ignition source) which allows them to be classed according to the fire hazard they present in normal use.

Flammable liquids are classed as:

Extremely flammable

Liquids which have a flashpoint lower than 0°C and a boiling point (or, in the case of a boiling range, the initial boiling point) lower than or equal to 35°C.

Highly flammable

Liquids which have a flashpoint below 21°C but which are not extremely flammable.

Flammable

Liquids which have a flashpoint equal to or greater than 21°C and less than or equal to 55°C and which support combustion when tested in the prescribed manner at 55°C.

Dusts

Dusts which can form explosive atmospheres are also classed as dangerous substances. Dusts can be produced from many everyday materials such as coal, wood, flour, grain, sugar, certain metals and synthetic organic chemicals. They are found in many industries such as food/animal feed, chemicals, woodworking, rubber and plastic processing and metal powders. They may be raw materials, intermediates, finished or waste products. A cloud of combustible dust in the air can explode violently if there is a source of ignition (eg naked flame, sparks).

Find out more:

Gases

Gases, such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or methane, which are usually stored under pressure in cylinders and bulk containers. Uncontrolled releases can readily ignite or cause the cylinder to become a missile.

Find out more:

Solids

Solids include materials such as plastic foam, packaging, and textiles which can burn fiercely and give off dense black smoke, sometimes poisonous.

Other fire and explosion hazards

Many chemical substances can give rise to harmful heat and pressure effects because they are unstable or because they can react violently with other materials. Chemicals need to be stored correctly and when reacted together sufficient information obtained to ensure that correct process controls can be used to prevent dangerous exothermic runaway reactions.

Further information can be found at:

Gas welding

The flammable gases and oxygen used as a fuel for hot work and flame cutting can give rise to fire and explosion risks on their own without any involvement of any other dangerous or combustible substances. A risk assessment carried out according to DSEAR will help to identify the correct controls and equipment before the work is carried out.

Further information can be found at:

Regulations

The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002, DSEAR and ATEX, require employers to assess the risk of fires and explosions arising from work activities involving dangerous substances, and to eliminate or reduce these risks.

HSE and local authorities are responsible for enforcing those workplaces covered by the legislation on working in potentially explosive atmospheres. These are covered in the following pages:

For more information, visit the HSE ‘Fire and explosion’ web pages: http://www.hse.gov.uk/fireandexplosion/ 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