The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have advised that there is new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans.
Following this the Workplace Health Expert Committee has recommended the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen.
The key issues surrounding the topic are:
· There is new scientific evidence that exposure to all welding fume, including mild steel welding fume, can cause lung cancer.
· There is also limited evidence linked to kidney cancer.
· There is a change in HSE enforcement expectations in relation to the control of exposure of welding fume, including that from mild steel welding.
· All businesses undertaking welding activities should ensure effective engineering controls are provided and correctly used to control fume arising from those welding activities.
· Where engineering controls are not adequate to control all fume exposure, adequate and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is also required to control risk from the residual fume.
As a consequence of the above the HSE have advised that the points listed below are to be actioned:
1. Make sure exposure to any welding fume released is adequately controlled using engineering controls (typically LEV).
2. Make sure suitable controls are provided for all welding activities, irrelevant of duration. This includes welding outdoors.
3. Where engineering controls alone cannot control exposure, then adequate and suitable RPE should be provided to control risk from any residual fume.
4. Make sure all engineering controls are correctly used, suitably maintained and are subject to thorough examination and test where required.
5. 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.
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