As a result of new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, where it was found that exposure to all welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans, mild steel welding fume has been reclassified as a human carcinogen.
With immediate effect, there will a strengthening of HSE’s enforcement expectation for all welding fume, including mild steel welding.
All organisations undertaking welding activities will require suitable engineering controls for all welding activities indoors e.g. Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV), because general ventilation will not achieve the necessary control. Suitable and sufficient extraction will also control exposure to manganese, which is present in mild steel welding fume, which can cause neurological effects similar to Parkinson’s disease.
Where LEV alone does not adequately control exposure, it should be supplemented by adequate and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to protect against the residual fume.
Appropriate RPE should be provided for welding outdoors. Welders also need to be suitably instructed and trained in the use of these controls.
Regardless of duration, the HSE will no longer accept any welding undertaken without any suitable exposure control measures in place, as there is no known level of safe exposure.
Risk assessments should reflect the change in the expected control measures.
Organisations who don’t undertake welding activities themselves still need to consider the above if and when contractors undertake such work on their premises.