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In February 2019, the HSE released their latest bulletin STSU1 which details the change in enforcement expectations for all welding fume including mild steel welding fume.
The bulletin followed the International Agency Research on Cancer’s (IARC) reclassification of all welding fume including mild steels as Group 1 carcinogenic to humans.
The IARC have published new scientific evidence that states exposure to all welding fume including mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans.
As a result, the HSE will be strengthening their enforcement expectations for all welding fume, including mild steel as the general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control measures in reducing exposure.
Employers will now be required to implement suitable engineering control for all welding activities carried out indoors in order to reduce the cancer risk.
An example of appropriate engineering control is LEV (Local Exhaust Ventilation) which will also control exposure to manganese, a constituent of mild steel welding fume which can cause neurological effects similar to Parkinson’s disease.
It should also be noted that for welding activities outdoors, the HSE now require RPE to be provided. LEV is not always an adequate control measure for reducing employee exposure. In these cases, LEV must be supplemented by adequate and suitable Respiratory Protection Equipment to protect welders from any residue fume.