Health and Safety for Welders Changed for the Better
At the start of February, the Health and Safety Executive – or HSE – made a change in their enforcement expectations for working in the welding profession.
This change came off the back of new scientific evidence showing that exposure to all welding fumes can cause lung cancer.
This includes fumes from mild steel welding.
The change – which is effective immediately – means that welders in any industry must be adequately protected from the harmful fumes.
Any employer or contractor found to be ignoring the new enforcement expectations will face consequences.
If you’re a welder and have developed a respiratory illness because of working conditions, we can help you.
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Change in Enforcement Expectations for Mild Steel Welding Fumes
The change in enforcement expectations primarily concerns the control of exposure welders face to carcinogenic fumes whilst at work.
The change came into effect immediately in early February, and so all employers and contractors should now be compliant.
All businesses which employ welders should ensure that effective engineering controls are provided.
These engineering controls must be correctly used to control the amount of fume welders are exposed to.
If controls are not adequate, suitable respiratory protective equipment, known as RPE, is also necessary.
According to the HSE, general workspace ventilation for welders is not good enough.
It can’t achieve the necessary fume risk control the way engineering controls and/or RPE can.
Your employer’s failure to adequately control your exposure and/or provide you with the correct protective equipment puts you at a significant risk of developing lung cancer or occupational asthma.
Did your employer fail to provide you with the correct PPE, causing you to suffer from illness or injury?
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Illnesses Caused by Inhaling Welding Fumes
The scientific evidence on which the change in enforcement expectations was based comes from the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
This conveys what a serious impact inhaling welding fumes – even mild steel welding fumes – can have on your health.
Besides lung cancer and asthma, it is possible that welders are at a high risk of developing kidney cancer too.
As a result, the Workplace Health Expert Committee has reclassified mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen.
This means that the fumes are fully capable of causing cancer, and high exposure to them puts you at a great risk.
What Should Employers be Doing About This?
Firstly, the HSE will not accept any welding which takes place with no suitable exposure control measures in place, so employers must take action now.
All indoor welding activities now require suitable engineering controls to minimise exposure in order to control the risk of lung cancer.
The most common suitable engineering control is known as Local Exhaust Ventilation.
An LEV control system sucks carcinogenic welding fumes out of and enclosed or confined workspace.
If this system in not good enough at controlling a welder’s exposure to harmful fumes, it must be used alongside Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE).
All outdoor welders should be provided with RPE, and every welder should be trained on how to use it properly.
It does not matter how long someone is welding for, or whether they are doing so in or outside – they must be provided with suitable controls and adequately trained.
Employers or contractors must properly maintain exposure control equipment.
Giving you faulty equipment to wear or use could pose a serious risk to your life, immediately or over time.
What to Do if You Think Your Employer is Avoiding the HSE’s Change
Ignoring the HSE’s expectations is putting people’s lives at risk – there’s no way to sugarcoat it.
If you believe that your employer or contractor is doing so then we may be able to help you.
You may already have respiratory problems because of exposure to carcinogenic fumes without even realising.
Or, if you’ve been diagnosed with asthma previously, you may have noticed your symptoms becoming worse.
Shortness of breath, a tight chest and coughing are all symptoms of asthma and lung cancer.
Is your employer in breach of these rules, causing your health to deteriorate?
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How We Can Help
Lung cancer and asthma can have a serious, lasting impact on your life.
You may have to stop working altogether.
We can help you whether you’re still working as a welder, or if you’ve been forced to stop.
No one should have to suffer from pain or financial difficulties because of an employer’s negligent attitude towards protective equipment.
We can help you claim for the pain and any financial loss caused by your illness.
This might have been having to take time off work or paying for medication.
We can also help you claim for any future loss of earnings if you’ve had to switch jobs – or may have to in the future – because of your injury or illness.
Get in touch with our industrial disease team today for expert advice, guidance and support.
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