Welding Fume Controls Offer No Window of Leniency

Firms and contractors undertaking any sort of welding activity are being alerted to a tightening of health and safety law with regard to welding fumes, which they may not have noted, but which requires them to undertake an immediate review of risk assessments and introduce suitable control measures.


Gauntlet Health and Safety says that, to stay compliant with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, businesses need to act quickly and recognise that opening windows or using other general ventilation methods will not prevent them picking up hefty fines or possible prison sentences.


The new emphasis on controlling the fumes created by welding activities follows the classifying of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen, felt to cause both lung cancer and possible kidney cancer according to studies by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.


Other possible side-effects include neurological damage which will exhibit in a similar manner to Parkinson’s Disease.


The HSE expects to see at-source fume extraction taking place, removing fumes from the breathing zone. Welding indoors should be accompanied by Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV), whilst welding outdoors, regardless of the duration of the work, requires the welder to be fitted with suitable respiratory protection equipment (RPE).  RPE needs to be part of an RPE programme taking a holistic approach towards RPE protection.


There is no window of leniency with regard to welding control.  The law has been tightened with immediate effect and manufacturing and engineering businesses need to respond without delay.


Gauntlet Health and Safety’s Brian Goulding says: “Any business which uses welding equipment should get the right controls in place the moment they read this warning.  If they are unsure what they need to do to be compliant and not breach health and safety laws, they can get in touch and we can guide them through the processes required. 


“There was no transfer window between the former requirements and the new ones.  If they are not compliant, they are in danger of being fined, as the HSE is likely to be very keen on seeing welding fume containment religiously enforced and will know the type of business likely to incorporate welding in its day-to-day operations.” 


For more information, contact Brian Goulding on 0113 244 8686 or email healthandsafety@gauntletgroup.com