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No window of leniency on welding fume control

Welding fumes

Gauntlet Health and Safety urge business to put the right controls in place without delay

BUSINESSES that undertake any form of welding activity are being alerted to a tightening of health and safety law that may have escaped them, but which necessitates an immediate review of risk assessments and the introduction of suitable control measures.

Gauntlet Health and Safety say 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 recognize 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 classification of mild-steel welding fume as a human carcinogen, thought 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 that 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 are expected to respond without delay.

Gauntlet Health and Safety’s Brian Goulding said: ‘Any business that 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 types of businesses likely to incorporate welding in their day-to-day operations.’

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