HSE inspecting fabricated metal businesses regarding respiratory risks
Written by Nick Wilson on 12 February 2021
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced a new inspection blitz focused on fabricated metal businesses.
Businesses across Great Britain whose workers carry out welding or use metalworking fluids are being targeted. Checks are to ensure firms manage the respiratory risks of welding fumes and metalworking fluids, and that relevant HSE guidance is being complied with.
As an employer, you are legally required to control the risks to workers from exposure to hazardous substances. During visits, you will need to demonstrate that you have measures in place to:
- Manage the risks associated with welding fumes and metalworking fluids.
- Protect workers’ respiratory health and prevent occupational lung disease.
Scientific evidence indicates that inhaling fume from welding causes lung cancer. Inhaling mist from metalworking fluids is similarly linked to a range of lung diseases, including occupational asthma and occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis (OHP). Accordingly, inspectors will look for evidence that:
- You and your workers know the risks.
- Work is correctly planned to minimise risk.
- Adequate control measures are in place to protect workers’ health.
While the regulator’s primary focus will be on lung health, if inspectors identify other areas of concern, they will take the necessary enforcement action. This includes making sure businesses are COVID-secure.
Clare Owen, the HSE’s manufacturing head, said: “12,000 people died last year from lung diseases estimated to be linked to past exposure from work, with thousands more cases of ill health and working days lost. We want businesses whose workers use metalworking fluids and undertake welding activities to take action now to protect their workers’ respiratory health.”
Ms Owen adds: “Our inspection initiative aims to ensure employers and workers are aware of the risks associated with the activities they do. They must recognise these dangers and manage these risks through reducing exposure.”
Do you need support?
Speak to us for an honest, no obligation chat on:
0345 226 8393 Lines are open 9am – 5pm
Tips for a stress-free inspection
The HSE has said it will “no longer accept any welding undertaken without any suitable exposure control measures in place, as there is no known level of safe exposure”. As such, employers found not to be following the guidance can expect an improvement notice as a minimum.
First, make sure to update your risk assessment. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) require employers carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for those exposed to welding fumes and metalwork fluids. The HSE says it expects suitable engineering controls to be in place for all indoor welding activity such as local exhaust ventilation (LEV). Where LEV alone doesn’t adequately control exposure, it should be supplemented by adequate and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to protect against residual fume. Where LEV is installed, ensure you have had the required statutory thorough examination and test by a competent person, at least every 14 months.
For outdoor welding, inspectors will expect suitable RPE to be used. Workers should be trained to correctly use the provided RPE and LEV – it should be suitable for the task and maintained in good condition.
Exactly what controls are required in managing metalworking fluids will depend on the circumstances. However, as a general rule, work activities and operations should be designed to minimise emissions and contact with metalworking fluids. This may involve enclosing a process or the use of LEV. Where exposure can’t be adequately controlled, controls should be in place to minimise exposure and suitable personal protective equipment provided. Workers should receive adequate information, training and supervision.
Use the HSE’s welding guidance and resources to prepare for inspection.
Head of Compliance, GFM Ltd
Fulfil your safety duties with specialist support
If metalwork is only a minor part of your activity, you may not be specifically targeted. However, be warned – if inspectors are on site for other reasons and they spot that you’re carrying out this type of work, they are likely to bring it up. Similarly, if you are targeted as part of this campaign, other aspects of your health and safety management may come under the spotlight.
If you’re not fully confident in your compliance, Ellis Whittam can support you to proactively protect your workers from harm and help your business stand up to regulator scrutiny. To find out how our fixed-fee Health & Safety service can help your fabrication or manufacturing business to ensure a smooth, successful inspection and stay on top of your responsibilities on a daily basis, call 0345 226 8393 or request your free consultation using the button below.
Sign up for the latest news & insights
Latest News & Insights
NEWS Chester – 16 June 2021: Ellis Whittam is pleased to announce the latest acquisition by parent company Marlowe plc. Employment law compliance specialist Cater
BLOG ‘Hybrid working’ has become the new buzz term for businesses who are thinking progressively about their post-pandemic plans and keen to embrace new ways
BLOG Written by Nick Wilson on 11 June 2021 Coronavirus has dominated the health and safety agenda since March 2020. However, while COVID-19 risk management
BLOG In the modern age, talent retention is a science. Whether it’s due to competitor attraction, the rapidly growing popularity of gig work, career changes,
BLOG Written by Charles Spencer on 7 June 2021 Hybrid working seems to be emerging as the favoured post-pandemic approach. However, as well as being
BLOG Psychologists have long spoken about the importance of maintaining a work-life balance. Now, a global study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed
BLOG Last month, with businesses such as British Gas making headlines, our Director of Legal Services, James Tamm, spoke about the dangers of ‘fire and
BLOG All businesses have been impacted by COVID-19 in some way or another. However, for retailers, COVID-19 has presented another hazard: an increased risk of