The International Agency for Research on Cancer has found new scientific evidence that exposure to welding fumes from mild steel, can evidently cause lung, and possibly kidney, cancer in humans. Following this, the Workplace Health Expert Committee has endorsed the reclassification of mild steel welding fumes as a human carcinogen. If you work in the welding industry, are a contractor or employer, this will affect you.
Until now, general ventilation was the requirement for people around mild steel welding fumes, however now this does not achieve the necessary control. Control of the cancer risk will now require adequate engineering controls of welding activities indoors. Solutions involve Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV), or extraction. Extraction will control the manganese exposure which is present in the fumes. This exposure to manganese can cause neurological effects – similar to Parkinson’s disease. Where LEV does not control the exposure, it will be supplemented by Respiratory Protective Equipment to protect further.
HSE will no longer accept any welding done without suitable exposure control measures in place.
There is now a need for more adequate engineering control around any welding fumes, the solution typically being LEV. Where this is not suitable enough, Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) should be put into place (ensure it is subject to the RPE program). These controls need to be kept maintained in any welding environment.
Inspectors will be discussing the control of exposure to welding fumes during any Inspections where they find it occurs with immediate effect and there will be a specific Inspection Campaign for fabricated metal premises.