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Manufacturers warned about change in mild steel welding fume legislation

Manufacturers that operate mild steel welding could fall foul of a change in enforcement expectations that has recently been announced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Multi-Fan Systems, a specialist in customised air movement, filtration and extraction systems, has made the rallying call in a bid to educate industry on the importance of providing clean working environments for their staff.

New scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer suggests that exposure to all welding fume, including mild steel, can cause lung cancer – with limited evidence also linking it to kidney cancer.
The HSE will now be strengthening its enforcement expectation for all welding fume, as it believes general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control.

“There are lots of companies out there that may not know that guidance has changed and the enforcement is now stronger,” explained Chris Harper, General Manager at Telford-based Multi-Fan Systems.

“This could be a very expensive oversight and, more importantly, can put staff at risk if the right ventilation controls aren’t used.”

He continued: “Under the new HSE guidance, manufacturers who weld mild steel now have to put in place engineering controls for all indoor welding activities. The safety alert issued earlier this month includes the following ‘regardless of duration, HSE will no longer accept any welding undertaken without any suitable exposure control measures in place, as there is no known level of safe exposure’.

“Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) is widely recognised as the most effective option for removing fume from workplace air. Extraction will also have to control exposure to manganese, which can cause neurological effects similar to Parkinson’s disease.”

A Manufacturing Statistics report released by the HSE late last year states that ‘Annually, around 4,000 workers were suffering with breathing and lung problems caused or made worse by their work.’

The HSE is currently focusing on reducing the rate of occupational lung disease as a part of its ‘Go Home Healthy’ initiative.

Multi-Fan Systems, which is located in a state-of-the-art manufacturing and technical facility in the heart of the West Midlands, provides a single-source solution for customers looking to benefit from cleaner, safer and more productive working environments.

The company’s experienced team provides a full turnkey solution – from designing and specifying the right fume extraction equipment, to installation, commissioning and ongoing monitoring – to ensure installations are performing as intended.

“There are a lot of benefits to ensuring workplaces benefit from good quality air – not least on the morale and health of staff so they are happy and more productive. That’s not even taking into account days no longer lost due to ill health,” added Chris.

“We can give you peace of mind that you’ll have the best, fully compliant fume extraction system for your specific requirements. Our proven track record in completing turnkey projects on time and to budget speaks for itself, including high-profile contracts with Cummins, Ricoh and the University of Birmingham.”