Welding Respiratory Protection & Raised HSE Enforcement Bulletin
On 14 January 2019, the HSE shared with the Industry and Regulatory Forum on Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) that they have raised enforced control measures for welding operations in the UK. Bulletin STSU1 – 2019 was issued in February. Enforcement of the raised control standards is with immediate effect under COSHH Regulation 7.The raised enforced control standards are highlighted below:
– All forms of welding fume can cause cancer. Control is required.
– Indoor welding tasks require the use of LEV. If LEV is unable to control fume capture then Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is also required.
– Outdoor welding requires use of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE).
Whilst the primary contaminant of welding fumes may be particulate, that may not be all it contains. In most instances when welding, ozone at least is created, for which we would recommend a combination of ABE and P3 filter (concentrations are very dependent on the type of welding and whether the base metal is mild, stainless or galvanised steel or aluminium).
Since the HSE issued the bulletin, we have been extremely busy helping customers to raise protection levels and remain compliant. We have seen many groups of welders working on varied tasks. I don’t wish to identify any, so I will say that on the whole, most are repairing metals which are covered in isocyanate paint or other sealing products.
Almost all complained about the ‘stink’ coming off the welding process not being controlled by the particle filters they had been suggested would be sufficient.
This ‘stink’ would probably be a mixture of ozone, paint or sealing products being vaporised, which could be fixed with our solutions by using an ABE and P3 combination filter.
It’s important to bear in mind this would also apply to any welding where the metal is already painted…so pretty much any post production repair.
As ever, the choice of what respirator and which filter is required is down to the users own risk assessment.
The responsibility of the employer is made clear in the bulletin; 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.
On the basis of the above raised HSE control standards, if you are certain that the only hazard is particulate in nature, a respirator with just P3 filter could be sufficient. If you are unsure of the contaminant and levels, or are welding on Stainless Steel, Galvanised Steel, Aluminium or any metal which has coatings such as paint or residues such as rust inhibitors, our advice would be either airline or Sundström SR 500 powered respirator with ABE+P3 filter, combined with your choice of Sundström Welding headtop.