New scientific evidence that exposure to welding fume, including mild steel welding fume, can cause lung cancer has prompted the UK’s Health and Safety Executive to tighten its enforcement expectations.
The new scientific evidence comes from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and also links welding fume to kidney cancer.
As a result, workplaces around the world are being actively encouraged to rethink their stance on welders’ respiratory protection and welding fume.
HSE said in a statement that it would immediately raise its control standards, and that it would no longer accept any welding, regardless of duration, without suitable exposure control measures in place. The agency said there was now “no known level of safe exposure.”
“With immediate effect, there is a strengthening of HSE’s enforcement expectation for all welding fume, including mild steel welding; because general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control.”
“Control of the cancer risk will require suitable engineering controls for all welding activities indoors e.g. Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV). 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.”
UK Employers are now being being urged to ensure their risk assessments reflect the change in the HSE’s expected control measures.
As a result of the new evidence, the Workplace Health Expert Committee is now endorsing the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen.
Want more information on welding fume?
Controlling health hazards associated with welding fumes is an entry in the myosh HSEQ Library.