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Welding fumes pose a significant risk to health

Enforced control measures for welding operations have been introduced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

This follows an announcement from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), who have classified welding fumes and UV radiation from welding as group 1 carcinogens, which represents the highest level of risk.

The HSE announcement was shared with the Industry and Regulatory Forum on Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) last week. The raised enforced control standards state that all forms of welding fume can cause cancer.

Control is required where:

  • Indoor welding tasks require the use of LEV (Local Exhaust Ventilation).

  • If LEV is unable to control fume capture then Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is also required.

  • Outdoor welding requires the use of RPE.

Enforcement of the raised control standards is with immediate effect under Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulation 7.

The HSE will issue a ‘Safety Alert’ in the near future and control requirements will be communicated through the HSE website. The HSE is also currently developing an intervention plan.

Where to find more information about how to control welding fume?

More information about the dangers associated with welding can be found on the BOHS Breathe Freely website.

This includes:

- a welding fact sheet, spelling out the risks and common control measures

- a toolbox talk on welding fume which explains the risks associated with welding fume, how it can be controlled, and shows examples of what ‘bad’ and ‘good’ look like

- guidance on welding fume control for common welding tasks, in the BOHS Welding Fume Control Selector Tool

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