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10 Tips to reduce Welding Fume Risk to Employees

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) is a pivotal regulation that mandates employers to either prevent or control exposure to hazardous substances. Here are 10 tips to reduce welding fume risks to employees:


1. Purpose of COSHH in Welding: COSHH offers guidance for those managing hazardous substances at work, including occupational health specialists, COSHH assessors and supervisors.


2. Control Approaches: Prioritize three main control methods:

  • Local exhaust ventilation (LEV)

  • Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE)

  • General ventilation


3. Welding Processes: COSHH guidance applies to various welding types such as MMA, FCA, MIG, MAG, gas welding, TIG and resistance spot welding.


4. Good Control Practices: Depending on the welding type and intensity, use LEV where possible, or ensure good general ventilation and RPE.


5. Understand Welding Hazards: Be aware that welding fumes can lead to respiratory issues, metal fume fever, pneumonia susceptibility, occupational asthma, cancer, and potential neurological damage. Shielding gases can also cause asphyxiation.


6. Pre-Welding Preparations: Minimize welding by designing jobs efficiently, clean workpieces of grease and coatings, position workpieces and LEV hoods optimally, and use RPE for outdoor welding if LEV isn't feasible.


7. Importance of RPE: Use RPE when fume extraction isn't enough, especially during high-intensity welding or if LEV systems are ineffective.


8. General Ventilation: Ensure effective ventilation in indoor welding areas to minimize fume build-up, especially when LEV doesn't capture all fumes.


9. Maintain LEV Systems: After purchasing an LEV system, commission it and have it undergo a 'thorough examination and test' (TExT) by a competent engineer at least every 14 months.


10. Training and Health Surveillance: Regularly train employees on health hazards, safe procedures, control use, and RPE importance. Implement health surveillance, especially when welding with metals that can cause respiratory problems.


HSE recently prosecuted a engineering company forinadequate control of exposure to welding fume. The company was fined £20,000 and the director was fined just under £4,000. See https://press.hse.gov.uk/2023/09/14/company-and-director-fined-for-putting-workers-at-risk/ for more information about this case.



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