Welding fume

Russell Corlett - Health and Safety Director

December 03 2019

At the beginning of the year, the International Association for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced its decision to reclassify welding fume as a Group 1 carcinogenic substance. 

The decision was based on evidence that all welding fume can cause lung cancer and may cause kidney cancer. 

In the UK, the Workplace Health Expert Committee reviewed the IARC evidence and report and confirmed the findings.

As a result, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued a safety alert about the link between mild steel welding fume and cancer.

The HSE signalled that they would expect a higher standard of fume control than before and that it would be revising its advice for employers.

The revised guidance has recently been published.

At the same time, the HSE announced a targeted compliance campaign to start in the new year.

These inspection visits will be focusing on the control measures in place, regardless of the welding duration.  Inspectors will be looking for:

  • The provision of suitable local exhaust ventilation (LEV) for all indoor welding activities, with respiratory protective equipment (RPE) for any residual risk.
  • The provision of appropriate RPE for welding outdoors.
  • The revision of risk assessments for welding activities to reflect the revised level of hazard and include details of any additional control measures.

The HSE has already instigated a mailshot asking employers to confirm that appropriate controls are in place.  Failure to respond is likely to result in a site inspection visit.

Any business that has not reviewed compliance or implemented any further controls should expect enforcement action to be taken.

Get further guidance from health & safety advice line on 0800 028 2420 today.

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