14th January 2020
New Welding Fume Guidance Issued
The HSE has recently published revised guidance on welding fume – this comes after it started enforcing higher standards in this area back in 2019.
The long-awaited practical guidance will help employers understand how to manage the health risks of welding, and inspectors will be visiting to check businesses are on track with effect from January 2020.
Scientific evidence published in 2017 from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, described how exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung and possibly kidney cancer. As a result, mild steel welding fume was reclassified as a human carcinogen and this led to a policy change at the HSE in early 2019 which expects employers to do much more to protect welders’ health.
The changes were first described in a Safety Alert issued in 2019 which stated, “With immediate effect, there is a strengthening of HSE’s enforcement expectation for welding fume, including mild steel welding; because general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control.”
What Do I Need to Do?
The principal changes are that respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is to be used for all outdoor welding operations. When welding indoors, local exhaust ventilation (LEV) is to be used regardless of the scale of the work, with RPE worn too if the LEV can’t capture the fumes effectively.
In November 2019 the HSE issued comprehensive guidance for businesses in a number of “COSHH essentials” sheets, with advice on welding fume control both generally and in specific scenarios. These sheets are designed to be easily understood by those who are not experts in the subject matter and can be accessed here https://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/essentials/direct-advice/welding.htm
If your staff complete welding operations, ensure that your risk assessments and safe systems of work reflect the guidance. The HSE will use it to identify whether your arrangements are up to scratch.
Be warned that inspectors will be visiting businesses across the country to check compliance from January 2020, and so if you do have any concerns or require help with you COSHH assessments then do not hesitate to contact us on 0845 459 1724 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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The competent person role does not have to be fulfilled internally within every company. You can, therefore, outsource the appointment to a contractor or consultancy with the necessary qualifications and experience.