The HSE has issued a safety alert for those engaged for all those engaged in welding following new research from coordinates and conducts both epidemiological and laboratory research into the causes of human cancer.
The HSE reports that there is evidence linking all welding fumes to causing lung cancer and limited evidence that exposure can lead to kidney cancer and this has caused The Workplace Health Expert Committee to endorse the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen.
As a consequence the HSE has announced a strengthening of of its enforcement regime for all welding fumes with all internal welding to be undertaken in an environment with LEV. Where LEV does not provide adequate protection against exposure then RPE must supplement protection. RPE must also be provided for all outdoor welding.
Businesses engaged in welding must now update their risk assessments to reflect the change in expected control measures.
The HSE have issued the following statement of actions 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.
For further information please refer to the HSE website.