The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released a safety alert for those undertaking welding activities, including mild steel, in any industry. In order to protect workers, the HSE is strengthening its enforcement expectation for exposure control for all welding fume including mild and stainless steels, high chrome steels, armour plating and exotic metals.
Prior to this new regulation there were guidelines around the risk posed by welding fumes and the types of protection that could be used and implemented. The level of risk posed was determined by the Health and Safety Manager in the place of work, based on the concentration of welding fumes in the working environment, the length of exposure, the type of weld fume and so on. Based on these factors, the Safety Manager then would suggest the level and methods of control required for the worker to be safe.
What are the Changes?
- All Indoor welding tasks require the use of Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV). Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is also required for any residue welding fumes.
- Outdoor welding requires use of RPE.
Business’ will now need to look at the level of protection they currently offer their welding workforce to ensure that it meets the expectations of the HSE. If not already in place, an RPE programme will need to be developed and implemented, ensuring workers are suitably trained and instructed in the use of this new RPE. Programmes such as this will ensure the correct RPE is selected, maintained, stored, cleaned and of course adopted and in cases where it is required that a Face-Fit Testing programme is implemented.
Also, worth a mention is facial hair. Whilst many men in the UK love to fashion a beard, they are incompatible with some RPE solutions, in-particular those that require a tight-fitting seal. That doesn’t just mean a beard or designer stubble, workers need to be clean shaven to get a good seal with their respirator. That’s why it’s so important for the RPE selected to be correct and suitable for the workforce who will be wearing them.
The HSE has provide specific guidance on its website which outlines control measures to consider when welding in a variety of environments, in all cases when RPE is required a minimum Assigned Protection Factor (APF) of 20 is outlined.
This vast array of health effects from welding is staggering and so the need for effective exposure controls is critical:
- Suitable control measures must be applied, regardless of welding duration and including outdoors welding;
- The employer must ensure welders are suitably instructed and trained in the use of any exposure controls (e.g. LEV, RPE);
- All engineering controls should be correctly used, suitably maintained and subject to thorough examination and testing (if required under COSHH Regulation 9) and RPE must be subject to an RPE programme.
The recent change in enforcement expectations for control of welding fume exposure should be reflected in the risk assessment and in the current control measures on site. Control measures should be replaced or be improved upon if required as per the risk assessment and in order to reflect the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen.
A County Council has been fined £1.4m
A County Council has been fined after a six-year-old child playing on an unsecured street bollard suffered a life-changing head injury.
The Crown Court was told how, on 28 December 2015, the child was visiting Lymington with their family. They climbed onto the cast iron hinged bollard on Quay Hill, a cobbled pedestrianised street. The bollard fell to the ground taking the child with it. As a result, the child suffered serious, life-changing head injuries that were initially life-threatening and spent six months in hospital in a critical condition. The extent of their brain injury will not be fully known until her brain has matured.
The HSE’s investigation found that the bollard – which weighed approximately 69kg – was damaged and not appropriately secured. This matter had been reported to the County Council prior to the incident and monthly scheduled inspections had failed to identify this. The investigation also found insufficient information, instruction and training were provided to the council’s highways department personnel conducting ad hoc and monthly inspections, and the inspection guidance was misleading.
The County Council was found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £1.4m with full costs of £130,632.
Speaking after the case, the HSE inspector said: “Councils have a duty to adequately assess and control risks to members of the public from street furniture.
“A child has been left with life-changing injuries as a result of what was an easily preventable incident. Council inspections failed to identify this risk over a long period of time and then, when alerted to the damage to the bollard, failed to take the urgent action required to prevent injury.”