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HSE safety alert for mild steel welding fume

17 October 2019

HSE has issued a safety alert for mild steel welding fume.

This is based on recent research by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Mild steel welding fume has now been reclassified as a human carcinogen. The immediate outcome is that HSE will have a higher expectation of employers. All employers who have staff welding mild steel will be expected to introduce a significantly higher standard of protection and to be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of this protection. AirBench understands that insurers will also be looking for improved protection and in some cases have already refused to cover welding processes without significant improvements being put in place.

Key points to note are:

  • LEV will ALWAYS be required when working inside.
  • RPE will always be required where LEV does not effectively control fume.
  • Welding without LEV or RPE in place will not be accepted, even if working outdoors.
  • HSE will not accept any duration of welding activity where fume is not adequately controlled.

If your existing system is fully effective, you may not need to make any changes. However, you should review the effectiveness of the system to be sure you are working safely. If you have an AirBench, the company will provide recommendations. If you have a system provided by another supplier, contact them. Your system may need upgrading or recommissioning.

It is unlikely that welding hoods or extraction arms will be considered adequate to control weld fume in future given the unreliable nature of these systems and their tendency to expose operators to high levels of fume when incorrectly used.

AirBench aims to help customers comply with these enhanced expectations. Firstly, it has developed upgraded filtration for its FPW range of welding benches. This filtration is to H13 grade, which has a minimum efficiency of 99.95 %. This has necessitated design changes to the FPW range. These have now been fully tested and the upgraded systems are now available to purchase. 

For existing customers, in most cases this upgraded filtration system can be retrofitted. For new customers, AirBench will recommend the new H13 grade final filter as standard for welding operations.