There is some evidence that some forms of welding are linked to COPD, Occupational Asthma and lung cancer. The risk from stainless steel welding is more linked to occupational asthma. Studies are continuing to establish the causational link between welding and these diseases and the HSE Guidance is awaiting updating. It is a major shift from their stance in 2007. However, under COSHH Regulations they are saying that they would expect any welding operation to now have in place Local Exhaust Ventilation which is capable of dealing with the fumes, and if it cannot do this effectively the welder should be wearing air-fed Respiratory protection. As usual the advice is still quite non-prescriptive and relies on the employer to make the decisions. Some examples are given to illustrate what they are thinking, as follows:-
Some examples of circumstances where extraction is normally needed
• Moderate to high volume MIG/MAG production welding, small or medium sized parts, welding on a bench; or in a screened off area. Welding on carbon (mild) steels and aluminium;
• High volume production welding using TIG on stainless steels or aluminium ;
• Welding of stainless steels using MIG, MAG, Flux cored or MMA (stick welding);
• Arc air gouging (you’ll normally need RPE + fume extraction);
• Welding or hot cutting galvanised materials (zinc plated);
• Welding or hot cutting materials containing cadmium, or painted with lead or chromate paints. It is better to remove the coating before welding but if you can’t then effective fume extraction and RPE is needed;
• automated cutting (eg flame or plasma). Many cutting machines already have extraction systems built in to the cutting table;
• automated multi-head resistance welding machines.
Some examples where you will not normally need extraction
All examples assume the work piece is free from contaminants (dirt, grease, excessive oil, etc) and surface coatings (plating, paints, etc).
• Welding and hot cutting outdoors;
• flame welding (oxy/acetylene welding);
• a few minutes every hour of manual arc welding to tacking or small repairs (except on stainless steels)
• a few minutes every hour of flame or plasma cutting;
Its important to review your risk assessments and safe systems of work to ensure that you have the appropriate controls in place, give the office a call if you need further clarification.
Its very important to ensure your company is kept up to date with health and safety law. All our clients are kept up to date with health and safety changes with our retained health and safety service, please contact our team on 01924 261 789 for more information.