The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) sent out letters confirming that the fabrication and engineering sectors will be subjected to unannounced inspections between January and March 2020.
The inspections will focus on welding fume and required control measures and will examine two main areas:
- Internal Welding Operations
- External welding operations
Inspectors will be examining the required control measures in place including Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) and Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV).
Regardless of duration, the HSE will no longer accept any welding undertaken without any suitable exposure control measures in place, as there is no known level of safe exposure.
What do you need to do?
Implement appropriate controls including looking at how you control fumes, as all indoor welding activities will require suitable engineering controls, such as local exhaust ventilation (LEV) and extraction.
Where these alone cannot control the exposure adequately, additional controls should be implemented, such as the use of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) to protect the welder from residual fume.
If welding is done outside, controls will also be needed. RPE should be provided and employees should understand why these controls are in place and how to use the equipment safely. All equipment must also be suitable for the task at hand.
Welding Hierarchy of Control:
Redesign the job or eliminate a substance so that the hazard is removed.
- Design the job so there is less hot work, e.g. Using CAD/3D design techniques.
- Buy in raw materials with edge profiles already cut.
- ensure surface coatings are removed prior to welding
Replace the metal or welding technique with a less hazardous one.
- Use a welding technique that produces less fume.
- For arc welding use the lowest current and voltage applicable.
- Optimise your shielding gas.
- Engineering controls
Use work equipment or other measures to reduce exposure.
- Use suitable local exhaust ventilation (LEV) to remove the fume at source.
- Use a turntable to enable welding in a position where the fume rises away from the face (in addition to LEV).
- Management and administrative controls
These are all about identifying and implementing the procedures you need to reduce exposure.
- Introduce a dedicated area for welding.
- Control access to working area.
- Minimise the work carried out in enclosed or confined spaces.
- Implement a maintenance and test regime for LEV systems.
- Personal protective equipment
Masks, eye protections, gloves etc.
- Wear a battery powered respirator with a welding visor or helmet if the fume cannot be controlled in other ways.
- Ensure other workers in the area are not exposed to the fume.
- Where respirators are being used ensure that they are properly fitted, used and maintained.
Where you cannot solely rely on LEV, or when welding outdoors where there is no LEV, you must provide suitable RPE. This can be in the form of a powered air respirator or a supplied air respirator which combines respiratory, eye and face protection, with an APF of at least 20.
For work not expected to exceed one hour, a FFP3 tight-fitting disposable mask or re-usable half-mask with a P3 filter may be adequate to protect against particulates if the wearer is clean shaven, but these particulate filters will not protect workers from welding gases contained in the fume. Note tight-fitting RPE can become uncomfortable to wear, leading to workers loosening or removing the RPE therefore if welding exceeds 1 hour then a powered respirator is recommended.
RPE must be suitable for each wearer. Face fit testing for devices with a tight-fitting face seal will ensure the equipment selected is suitable for each worker.
You should have an RPE management programme which includes:
- suitable face-fit testing
- a stock of spare parts for example, batteries and filters
- clean storage of RPE when not in use
- compatibility with other personal protective equipment (PPE) you have provided for the task, for example a welding visor
For further advice on this topic or any other area of health and safety management, please get in touch with our H&S Team on 01302 341 344.
By Ken Stevens CMIOSH – Risk Services Manager