The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have this month issued a safety alert regarding the risk of exposure to harmful fumes from welding. This is in light of new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer that exposure to all welding fumes can cause lung cancer. It has also been indicated that there could be a link with kidney cancer.  

In light of these findings, the HSE’s Workplace Health Expert Committee has recommended that mild steel welding fume be reclassified as a human carcinogen. This means that the HSE will be increasing their enforcement expectations on employers as it will not now be enough to simply have general ventilation in place where welding is carried out indoors.  Employers are now expected to have tougher control measures, such as Local Exhaust Ventilation.  If these measures do not sufficiently reduce exposure then suitable masks must be provided.  The HSE have now made it clear to employers that they must carry out risk assessments which should reflect the change in the HSE’s expectations, or they could face prosecution under health and safety law.

It is already well known that substances within mild steel welding fume can be harmful and therefore these changes are welcomed.  Welding fumes contain a mix of harmful vapours and gases including nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide and harmful metals such as Beryllium, Cadmium,  Chromium,  Nickel and Manganese.   These substances can cause a number of ill health conditions.

The HSE have advised that they will no longer accept any welding undertaken without suitable control measures in place as there is no known level of safe exposure to welding fume. If you consider your employer has failed in these measures and you have developed injury as a result, Talk to Thompsons solicitors on 0800 0891331.

Blog by Claire Campbell, Solicitor

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