In February 2019, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) issued a safety alert to inform industry of a change in relation to the control expectations for exposure to welding fume, including that from mild steel welding.
In response to this, on 12 November 2019, the HSE issued its revised guidance based on 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.
Lung disease deaths linked to past exposures at work are estimated at 12,000 each year*. And in addition, an estimated number of 18,000 annual new cases of self-reported breathing or lung problems are caused or made worse by work, according to the Labour Force Survey.
His is why the HSE has focussed their attention heavily in 2019 on inhalation of hazardous substances at work – and it looks set to continue this focus in 2020. That means any business that produces or creates fumes, dusts, vapours, gases, fibres of any substance that is detrimental to health could expect a visit from an Inspector. The HSE Inspector will expect to see ‘adequate containment controls’ in place that remove fumes etc. from the immediate area and are effectively protecting the workers.
The HSE’s updated Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) guidance is designed to help make sure exposure to any welding fume released is adequately controlled. It states that employers have a duty to ensure that exposure to substances hazardous to health are either prevented or adequately controlled. This includes not only the person carrying out the task but other persons (employed or not) in the area.
The HSE has also updated its webpages on how to manage exposure to welding fume.
As with controlling any other risks, effective supervision is key to ensuring that people are working in the safest possible way. Management must take action to correct any gaps in your health and safety systems and ensure that everyone is aware of the safe systems of work.
In the new year, HSE inspectors will be visiting businesses across the country to check compliance with the law. If you are unsure of the control measures, you need to ensure then you should think about arranging an appointment with one of our Spectra’s Safety Practitioners.
* Occupational Lung Disease statistics in Great Britain, 2019: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/respiratory-diseases.pdf