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HSE warns on welding safety

UK: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is reminding employers that they must protect their workers’ health by controlling the risks from welding fume.

The HSE says its current programme of inspections will review health and safety standards across the country and is encouraging businesses to visit HSE’s revised guidance to remind themselves of the changes to control expectations.

“To protect your workers’ health, you must ensure you have adequate controls in place to avoid or reduce exposure to welding fume,” the HSE says in a statement. “Employers should be using local exhaust ventilation where effective and provide suitable respiratory protective equipment where necessary to protect workers in the metal fabrication industry from inhaling fumes.”

The inspections follow a safety alert that was issued in February last year after new evidence showed exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause cancer. The HSE updated guidance to reflect this.

“Scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer shows that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans,” says the HSE.

HSE head of manufacturing, John Rowe, added: “Employers and workers should know the risk, plan their work and use the right controls when welding activity is carried out. If they are not HSE will use enforcement to bring about improvements.”

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