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Cancer risks associated with mild steel welding fume

Estimated Read Time: 1 minute 40 seconds

At NIG, we support our brokers and customers in effectively managing the risks to their businesses and keeping up to date with regulation changes. In light of the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) announcing that they’re strengthening their enforcement for all welding fume, we want to draw your attention to the changes.

What’s changing?

There is new scientific evidence that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans. As a result, the HSE are strengthening their enforcement expectations for all welding fume because general ventilation alone does not achieve the required control.

This means that regardless of duration, the HSE will no longer accept welding undertaken if there aren’t suitable exposure control measures in place, as there is no known level of safe exposure.

Who’s affected?

All workers, employers, self-employed contractors and anyone else who undertakes welding activities including mild steel, in any industry.

Risk Control Expectations

• Control of the risk will require suitable engineering controls for all welding activities indoors e.g. Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV).
• Where LEV alone does not adequately control the risk this should be supplemented by suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
• Appropriate RPE should be supplied for welding outdoors as general ventilation alone does not achieve the required control.

Action to be taken

• Review risk assessments and ensure these reflect the change in the expected control measures. To download a risk assessment template from NIGclick here.
• Implement the control measures required where not already in place.
• Ensure welders are suitably trained and instructed in the use of these controls.
• Ensure engineering controls are suitably maintained and tested and that RPE is subject to an RPE programme to ensure effectiveness in protecting the wearer.

To read the full HSE alert along with a range of supporting information click here.

We have a number of tools and templates in our dedicated risk management area on These and other resources have been designed to support our brokers and customers in effectively managing the risks to their businesses.

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