UK HSE Requirements
The IARC conclusions have created a change in the HSE enforcement expectations for exposure to welding fume, whereby all businesses undertaking welding activities should ensure effective engineering controls are in place and correctly used to manage fume. The HSE have stated that general ventilation does not achieve the necessary air quality and that suitable controls, such as Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV), should be used. LEV can be difficult to use effectively when welding large components, so the use of on-torch extraction should be considered.
The HSE Safety alert states:
- Make sure exposure to any welding fume released is adequately controlled using engineering controls (typically LEV).
- Make sure suitable controls are provided for all welding activities, irrelevant of duration. This includes welding outdoors.
- Where engineering controls alone cannot control exposure, then adequate and suitable RPE should be provided to control risk from any residual fume.
- Make sure all engineering controls are correctly used, suitably maintained and are subject to thorough examination and test where required.
- Make sure any RPE is subject to an RPE programme. An RPE programme encapsulates all the elements of RPE use you need to ensure that your RPE is effective in protecting the wearer.
Welders must be suitably instructed and trained in the use of any controls, which should be used irrespective of the duration of the welding as there is no known level of safe exposure. Risk assessments should also be carried out to reflect these new control measures.
If the exposure monitoring data shows control to below the relevant WELs (e.g. chromium, nickel, manganese, etc.) then no further action is required.