Changes to HSE legislation brings tougher enforcement on mild steel welding fume extraction

In February 2019 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued bulletin STSU1-2019 which has significant implications for all those working in the welding industry. The HSE issued a change to their legislation which enables them to pursue tougher enforcement on mild steel fume extraction. The bulletin stated, “There is new scientific evidence that exposure to all welding fume, including mild steel welding fume, can cause lung cancer.”, with limited evidence to show that it can also cause kidney cancer.

What does this mean?

Previously it was believed that welding stainless steel was worse than mild steel due to the release of chromium and nickel; and that the risk from aluminium welding came from ozone inhalation. Mild steel was always considered to be fairly low risk, particularly on short jobs typically carried out by fabricators.

The findings from the HSE however suggest that mild steel welding presents a serious risk regardless of time spent.

What should you do about it?

No company would deny that worker safety is paramount, healthy workers are productive workers. That much is obvious, and at Nederman protecting people is one of our core values. Providing adequate extraction is a key part of the HSE enforcement and as per the bulletin they will now require that “effective engineering controls are provided and correctly used”, it is not enough to have a filter cart on site, it must be used correctly. Where effective engineering controls are not available, then effective RPE must also be provided.

A proper welding fume extraction system should be provided and while the HSE may further clarify what “effective engineering controls” are, Nederman has options that meet the W3 legislation from BGIA , our mobile filter carts can also be fitted with additional HEPA filters to provide higher levels of filtration and protection.

The responsibility of the employer is made clear by the HSE, suitable extraction should be provided for all welding activities, regardless of duration and including welding outdoors. Where engineering controls alone will not control exposure then the addition of adequate RPE must be provided. All control measures must be used and maintained correctly and thoroughly examined and tested where required. Risk assessments should now also reflect these changes.

Can Nederman help?

Of course, Nederman produce many extraction solutions that will meet the most stringent of standards to properly protect workers carrying out all types of steel welding. We offer a range of ‘off the shelf’ solutions including the incredibly popular Filter-cart and Filter-box fume extraction systems – mobile units that are fitted with articulated self-supporting extraction arms that are easily positioned for maximum effectiveness. We also offer semi-permanent and permanent installations which are ideal for locations where welding work is carried out on a continuous basis. Of course, not every situation is the same and sometimes an ‘off the shelf’ solution isn’t appropriate, which is where our Nederman Solutions department steps in. If you need a completely bespoke system designing from the ground up, to help you protect workers and remain compliant, we are fully equipped to assist you every step of the way from initial consultation through designing your system through to installation and ongoing maintenance.

Nederman has a proud history of being ‘addicted to clean air’. We have as a company been working for 75 years to ensure that people, products and the environment are protected, if you want to speak to our experts about how you can protect your people, please feel free to get in touch.

You can see our selection of mobile filters and compact units on our mobile filters page If you would like to speak to someone about our products or if you need to discuss a bespoke solution please use our contact page

Reference documents;

Bulletin No: STSU1 – 2019
Controlling airborne contaminants at work: A guide to local exhaust ventilation (LEV) HSG258 PDF
HSE Local Exhaust Ventilation webpages
Respiratory Protective Equipment: A practical guide HSG53 PDF
HSE Respiratory Protective Equipment webpages
IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans Volume 118 link to external website
The Lancet article on IARC Monograph PDF link to external website