In February 2019, the HSE updated the classification of welding fumes based on new evidence supplied by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. They discovered that mild steel welding fumes can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans. This meant that any future indoor welding tasks must be carried out whilst using a local exhaust ventilation (LEV) system to extract the carcinogenic fumes being produced at their source.

Between January and March 2020, the HSE have been making their way around 800 UK fabrication sites carrying out inspections on the control of welding fume and metal working fluid mist. If a fabrication site fails an inspection, they will be issued with an improvement notice, they will then be visited again later on and re-inspected and made the correct adjustments. If they fail to make the necessary improvements, they could be fined. For example, in April 2019, a metal fabrication company based in Lincolnshire was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,740 for failure to comply with an improvement notice.

Although the concentrated period of inspections between January and March is coming to an end, random inspections will still take place. This is why it is important to know what the inspectors will be looking for, so here are some of the questions regarding welding fume LEV inspectors will look to answer during a visit:

  • How much welding is being carried out?
  • Where does the welding take place?
  • Any automated processes?
  • What fume controls are in place?
  • What type of LEV is being used?
  • If LEV is being used, how effective is it?
  • Were the LEV systems inspected and maintained?

Plan, Do, Check, Act:

The inspectors will also be looking to see if managers are effectively achieving the ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ approach. It is an approach which helps to manage health and safety instead of trying to fix problems with one off interventions.

Plan – Involves determining your policy/plan for implementation, thinking about where you are now and where you need to be.

Do – Profile risks for health and safety and implement your plan. In the case of welding, it should be noted who the individuals at risk are, how it could harm them and what will be done to manage the risk. All workers should be involved and should discuss the issues they individually face. A plan should then be implemented, provide the right tools, in this case a local exhaust ventilation (LEV) system, and keep them maintained. Training should be conducted so that everyone is fully equipped to carry out their work safely, supervision should take place to make sure that individuals continue to make sure arrangements are followed.

Check – The performance of the plan should be measured, make sure that your plans have been implemented by assessing how well the risks are being controlled and if you’re achieving your aims. The causes of accidents, incidents and near misses should all be recorded and assessed as to why they happened or nearly happened.

Act – Continuous learning should take place, looking at previous accidents and incidents. The plan should be revisited with policies and risk assessments being amended if they need it.

For more detail on HSE operational guidance click here.

How We Can Help:

Here at Impact Technical Services, we design, install, maintain and service local exhaust ventilation (LEV) systems. Therefore, if you currently conduct metal fabrication and don’t use a LEV system to extract the carcinogenic welding fumes at their source, we can help. Our P602 trained LEV technicians can design a bespoke LEV system for your work environment and can install solutions such as extraction benches, extraction arms, mobile extraction and other products to protect your employees.

If you already have a LEV system but it requires testing, we can also help. Our P601 trained LEV engineers can carry out thorough examination and testing (TExT) to ensure you comply with COSHH regulation 9 that states this must happen at least once every 14 months.

If you require any services regarding LEV, contact the extraction experts at Impact:

Call – 0116 2448855

Email – [email protected]