Farmers are being alerted to a change in health and safety rules affecting anyone who does any welding.
The Health and Safety Executive has recently announced that it is reclassifying welding fumes, including that produced from mild steel, as a human carcinogen and will no longer accept any welding undertaken without suitable exposure control measures being in place, regardless of the duration.
Rob Gazely, farm consultant and health and safety specialist with Strutt and Parker, says; “There is new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IRAC) that exposure to welding fumes can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer.
“As a result, the Health and Safety Executive announced in February that with immediate effect, it is strengthening its enforcement expectations for welding fumes on the basis that general ventilation does not give sufficient control.”
The new rules, which will apply to all industries including agriculture, are that any exposure to welding fumes must be controlled by effective engineering controls.
Mr Gazley says; “In a workshop or indoor environment, this will typically be local exhaust ventilation (LEV: see panel below). This will also control workers’ exposure to manganese, which has been linked to neurological effects similar to Parkinson’s disease.
“Where LEV alone does not adequately control exposure, respiratory protective equipment (RPE) will need to be provided and employees who carry out welding suitably instructed and trained in its use. RPE will also be expected for anyone who is welding outdoors.”
Mr Gazely says a farm’s risk assessments and safe systems of work should be updated to reflect the change. Any protective equipment will need to be subject to a suitable programme of checks and LEV systems thoroughly examined by a competent person and tested annually.
According to the HSE, lots of different jobs across lots of different industries involve work processes that create dust and fumes, which if not controlled properly, people can breathe them in and develop diseases such as asthma, lung scaring and cancer.
The common way businesses can control dust and fumes is via an LEV, also known as extraction or fume control. However, it is vital that people understand how LEVs work so that they can buy the right LEV and use it properly, says the HSE.
Most LEV systems all work in the same way, comprising a series of pipes which removes fumes/dust from the working area via an airflow, which is then filtered. While LEVs vary in scale – some are large permanent systems, while some portable - the main differentiator is the hoods which should be the right design for the process being carried out.
Advice on LEVs, including how to choose and use LEVs, is available from a range of professional advisers and the HSE.