It has been just over 12 months since new safety regulations were issued by the UK government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the reclassification of mild steel welding fumes as a human carcinogen. The HSE has now updated its best practice guidelines. Here is a summarised update to highlight the key changes for its bodyshop customers.
New enforcement expectations require all businesses undertaking welding activities to ensure that effective engineering controls are provided and used correctly to control fumes arising from welding activities. It is now advised that larger fume producing welding types such as MIG and MMA require a double-pronged defence of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and local exhaust ventilation (LEV).
Lower fume producing welding, such as TIG usually requires only LEV protection, however it is now recommended that in applications where it is unclear whether LEV is providing sufficient fume control, both LEV and RPE should be used conjunctively for maximum protection.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every welding type and application, and so it is advised that an occupational hygiene air monitoring survey may be required to confirm the effectiveness of fume controls.
While on-torch extraction solutions can provide effective fume control, workers should be aware of the limitations of this method, as with all fume extraction methods.
It is also recommended that welders use a powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) unit if welding for more than one hour per day.
LEV supervision and training is highly recommended by the HSE to ensure that workers know how to effectively use LEV, how to check it is working efficiently, and to ensure they are following safe working procedures. Finally, all fume equipment should be routinely serviced and maintained to be in good working order. Filters should be regularly changed on PAPR units and on-torch units, and a ventilation engineer should carry out LEV testing every 14 months. All checks and maintenance should be routinely recorded in a logbook.