Exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans says The International Agency for Research on Cancer.
The Health & Safety Executive have released a safety alert which is targeted at all workers, employers, self-employed, contractors and anyone else who undertake welding activities, including mild steel, in any industry.
There is new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer that exposure to mild steel welding fumes can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans. The Workplace Health Expert Committee has endorsed the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen.
With immediate effect, there is a strengthening of HSE’s enforcement expectation for all welding fume, including mild steel welding; because general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control.
What actions am I required to make?
In some circumstances, none – you may already have the correct controls in place. However, the change in enforcement expectations require any businesses who undertake welding activities, regardless of duration, to ensure that suitable control measures to control welding fumes are in place, correctly used, suitably maintained and are subject to thorough examination and test where required.
Control of the cancer risk will require suitable engineering controls for all welding activities indoors e.g. Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV). Where LEV alone does not adequately control exposure, it should be supplemented by adequate and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to protect against the residual fume.
What can I do now?
You can read more about the HSE’s Safety Alert here.