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17 September 2018

Amid ever-stringent guidelines on managing exposure to hazardous substances at work, global testing, inspection and certification expert Bureau Veritas is encouraging manufacturers to ‘work smarter’ on limiting the risks welding fumes pose to employees health.

Over exposure to welding fumes and gases can damage the lungs, the respiratory tract, the central nervous system and can lead to a number of serious diseases including asthma, pneumonia, and lung cancer. In the UK alone, it is estimated that welding causes in excess of 150 deaths due to cancer every year, while around 40 to 50 welders are hospitalised annually with pneumonia due to inhaling metal fumes.

What’s more, given the recent introduction of EH40/2005 Workplace exposure limits guidance by the HSE2, setting out new and revised workplace exposure limits (WELs) for 31 chemical substances, Bureau Veritas says it has never been more important for manufacturers to ensure they have the right occupational hygiene programme in place.

Gerard Mooney, Principal Consultant in Occupational Hygiene at Bureau Veritas, comments: “Welding can pose a number of risks to employees in a manufacturing and fabrication environment, from the potentially harmful fumes and gasses emitted during the welding process, to dust, noise, vibration and UV radiation from allied processes such as plasma cutting, arc air gouging, burning, and grinding. The risks to employee’s health from these exposures can in many cases be prevented or at least adequately controlled if employers work smarter.

“With this in mind and following tighter workplace exposure limits (WELs) introduced by the HSE, it’s time for the manufacturing industry to get much tougher on minimising the dangers that welding fumes pose to employee health. At the heart of this will be ensuring businesses have a robust occupational hygiene strategy in place for controlling workplace exposure to harmful substances, which if done correctly can not only prevent ill health but can also reduce the reliance on uncomfortable respiratory protective equipment, thus improving working conditions.”

However, according to Bureau Veritas, with so many factors to consider and a myriad of different regulations to meet, such as Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, many businesses can struggle to effectively manage the health of employees who perform welding in manufacturing.

Gerard advises: “We would therefore encourage manufacturers to review their existing occupational hygiene programme to ensure it goes beyond simple compliance and includes a continuous improvement action plan to reduce the risks to employees health from exposure to hazardous substances.

“By taking steps such as ensuring that testing of Local Exhaust Ventilation systems are carried out in accordance with industry guide HSG(258), and effectively communicating to employees what control measures they need to use and why, employers can safeguard employee wellbeing and ultimately save lives.”

With an experienced network of occupational hygiene consultants operating nationwide, Bureau Veritas offers a wide range of expert, independent occupational hygiene services to help achieve and maintain safety in the workplace, whilst meeting the requirements of all relevant regulations.

For more information, please contact:

Bureau Veritas
Tel:  0345 600 1828
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