Protecting Your Workers from Welding Fume
Control the risk
Consider controls in this order for all welding work:
Avoid or reduce exposure.
Use local exhaust ventilation (LEV) to take the fume away at source.
Use suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE), for example a facemask, to protect workers from inhaling fumes.
1. Avoid or reduce exposure
To protect your workers from the health risks of inhaling welding fume, first think about if you can use alternative joining, cutting or surface preparation methods that produce less fume or dust. Consider if you could avoid or reduce exposure by doing the job in a different way. For example, can you:
automate or mechanise the process, by using distance welding, turntables or enclosing the work
reduce the amount of welding
use materials or a process that generates less fume, for example using MIG welding (an arc welding process) instead of MMA welding (stick welding)
use clean metals, for example pre-fabrication shaping or better machining
2. Use local exhaust ventilation (LEV)
If you can't avoid welding in your workplace, use local exhaust ventilation systems for indoor working to help remove fume at its source. This is also known as extraction or fume control.
This will protect your welder from exposure to welding fume. It will also help to protect others nearby. LEV works by using an air-flow to remove contaminated air from the process for capture by the hood. Types of LEV include:
3. Use suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE)
If you cannot achieve adequate control from LEV alone, or if it is not reasonably practicable to provide LEV, you must provide your workers with suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE). For example, if they're welding with LEV but not all the fume is captured you might be able to see residual uncaptured fume, or in the case of TIG welding, smell uncaptured ozone, then you're not controlling the risk and you should also provide respiratory protective equipment.
When you provide RPE for your workers:
use battery-powered air-fed protective equipment for longer duration work, with a minimum assigned protection factor of 20 (APF20)
ensure RPE wearers are clean shaven and provide face-fit testing for them
For welding outdoors, local exhaust ventilation will not work, so workers should use suitable RPE to control exposure. You should always provide appropriate:
personal protective equipment for your welders
shielding to protect other workers from eye damage
4. Maintain exposure controls
You must make sure any controls you have to protect your workers from health risks from welding fume remain effective:
Follow instructions on how to use equipment
Keep equipment in working order
If equipment is faulty, repair it straight away
Each day look for signs of damage
Get a competent ventilation engineer to carry out a Thorough Examination and Test on the LEV system and its performance at least every 14 months
Keep records of all examinations and tests for at least 5 years
Review records – failure patterns show where you need to do preventive maintenance
Review your controls when anything changes in your workplace
You must train workers, especially those new to the job. Tell them that fume and dust from welding and cutting can cause lung cancer and other lung conditions, if not properly controlled.
Training should include:
health risks associated with welding fume
advice on health effects and likely exposures
how to do the job properly, including where to stand and how to angle the weld
what pre-use checks you should make to check your welding equipment is working correctly
how to use controls and check that they are working
how local exhaust ventilation (LEV) systems work, for example:
how to position movable LEV to make sure it is in the right place as you work
how to ensure fume is not passing through your breathing zone
what pre-use checks you should make to ensure LEV is working correctly
how to ensure you are working within the 'capture zone' of the hood
how to use and look after respiratory protective equipment and personal protective equipment
what to do if something goes wrong
safety risks associated with welding activities
You must consult workers and their representatives on your health and safety arrangements.
What Can RCS Do For You
RCS's engineers will endeavour to provide you with the most effective and cost-efficient solution for the extraction of welding fume, fully COSSH compliant, following current HSE guidelines and your own individual requirements. Call us on +44(0)1563 546807 or click here to contact us for more information.