The UK HSE have recently released an alert warning that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer; and potentially also kidney cancer. This is based on recent research by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Mild steel welding fume has now been reclassified as a human carcinogen.
The full content of the HSE Alert can be found here.
What does this mean for employers?
The immediate outcome is that HSE will have a higher expectation of employers. All employers who have staff welding mild steel will be expected to introduce a significantly higher standard of protection and to be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of this protection. We understand that insurers will also be looking for improved protection and in some cases have already refused to cover welding processes without significant improvements being put in place.
Key points to note are:
- LEV will ALWAYS be required when working inside.
- RPE will always be required where LEV does not effectively control fume.
- Welding without LEV or RPE in place will not be accepted, even if working outdoors.
- HSE will not accept any duration of welding activity where fume is not adequately controlled.
Is my existing weld fume extraction system sufficient?
If your existing welding fume extraction system is fully effective, you may not need to make any changes. However, you should review the effectiveness of the system to be sure you are working safely. If you have an AirBench extraction system, talk to us and we will provide recommendations. If you have a system provided by another supplier, contact them. Your welding fume filtration system may need upgrading or recommissioning.
It is unlikely that welding hoods or extraction arms will be considered adequate to control weld fume in future given the unreliable nature of these systems and their tendency to expose operators to high levels of fume when incorrectly used.
What action are AirBench taking to respond to this?
AirBench Ltd aim to help customers comply with these enhanced expectations.
Firstly, we have developed upgraded filtration for our FPW range of welding benches. This fume filtration system is to H13 grade; which has a minimum efficiency of 99.95 %. This has necessitated design changes to the FPW range. These have now been fully tested and the upgraded fume extraction systems are now available to purchase.
For existing customers, in most cases this upgraded filtration system can be retrofitted. For new customers, we will be recommending the new H13 grade final filter as standard for welding operations.
Click here to view the AirBench FPW range for welding fume, or here to view VertEx models suitable for construction of HEPA filtered welding booths.
Contact us to discuss existing AirBench installations or new processes which will require suitable Local Exhaust Ventilation.