Mild Steel Welding Fume Reclassified as a Human Carcinogen by the HSE

by | News, Safety Spotlight

As of February 2019, the HSE issued a safety alert and a change in Enforcement Expectations for Mild Steel Welding Fume.

The recent reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a Group 1 carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for the Research on Cancer (IARC) has made many businesses change their view on welders’ respiratory protection.

 ‘’ Occupational cancer is caused by exposure to carcinogens in the workplace. Carcinogens are agents that cause the development or increase the incidence of cancer.’’

If you are a welder or responsible for welders within a business you must be aware of the following required actions.

Actions Required by the HSE

  • Exposure to any welding fume released is adequately controlled using engineering controls (typically LEV).
  • Suitable controls are provided for all welding activities, irrelevant of duration, this includes welding outdoors.
  • Where engineering controls alone cannot control exposure, then adequate and suitable RPE should be provided to control risks from any residual fume.

You also need to ensure that all engineering controls are correctly used, suitably maintained, are subject to thorough examination and tested where required.

Finally, you must make sure that any RPE is subject to an RPE programme. This encapsulates all the elements of RPE use you need and ensures that your RPE is effective in protecting the wearer.

Relevant legal documents:

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002

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Health and Safety Executive – Safety Alert.