Guest Article by Craig Batty of Workplace Exposure
Change in Enforcement Expectations for Welding Fumes
In February this year, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) announced a significant “change in enforcement expectations” regarding welding fumes.
It comes as a result of new scientific evidence that shows that exposure to all welding fumes can cause lung cancer.
The latest change in regulation means that all industries must adequately control exposure to welding fumes. No matter the duration or location of the work.
What are the latest Scientific Findings?
Findings from the International Agency for Research on Cancer have shown that exposure to mild steel welding fumes can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer. The findings have led to the reclassification of mild steel welding fumes as a human carcinogen.
What does this mean for the Welding Industry?
Most significantly the findings have led to the conclusion that there is no safe level of exposure to any form of welding fumes. This means that general ventilation alone will no longer be considered to be an adequate control measure. The only exception to this will be if undertaking sporadic or occasional low-intensity TIG or resistance spot welding. A combination of good general ventilation and suitable RPE is permissible if undertaking other types of welding sporadically or occasionally where LEV is not practicable.
Suitable engineering controls such as Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) machinery, will need to be in place for regular high-intensity indoor welding activities. Such control measures will have the additional benefit of controlling human exposure to manganese. Manganese is present in mild steel welding fumes. Inhaling these fumes can lead to long term neurological damage, with symptoms comparable to those of Parkinson’s Disease.
However, it is essential to ensure your chosen control method adequately reduces human exposure to fumes.
Craig Batty of Workplace Exposure
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