UK national regulator the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released a safety alert highlighting new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer suggesting that exposure to all welding fumes causes lung and kidney cancer.

Following the findings, the Workplace Health Expert Committee has endorsed the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen.

According to the HSE, at present, general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control. HSE is therefore set to strengthen its enforcement expectation on all welding fume, including mild steel welding.

The legislation, which changed yesterday (18th Feb), will impact all workers, employers, contractors’ and anyone else undertaking welding activities, across every industry.

Now in effect, HSE will not accept any welding to be undertaken without suitable exposure control measures in place.

New enforcement expectations require all businesses undertaking welding activities to ensure that effective engineering controls are provided and used correctly to control fume arising from welding activities.

As a result, all of the impacted organisations and individuals will be required to use Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) for welding activities indoors, and adequate respiratory protective equipment (RPE) for welding outdoors and in the case that LEV is not enough to protect against the residual fume.