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Welding fume enforcement expectations tighten

A new safety alert by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK states exposure to any type of welding fume is now classified as carcinogenic, and safety expectations have changed, writes Ashlyn Oswalt, digital content and social specialist, RPB Safety LLC.

“There is new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans,” states HSE. The re-classification of welding fume to a Class 1 carcinogenic from the IARC may not be news but change in enforcement expectations by the HSE is. It is important for workers and employers alike to fully understand the risks and take steps to minimise exposure.

Welding fume

The exact composition of welding fume varies based on the application and welding method being used. In general, welding fume consists of extremely fine metal dust (particulates) and toxic gases. The process of welding produces harmful metal fume and gas by-products, putting those in proximity to the fumes at risk of it entering their respiratory system. The inhalation of welding fumes can result in a host of potentially fatal diseases and complications. Damage to the brain and nervous system, cancer, kidney failure, lung diseases, and emphysema are a few issues that can affect those breathing in welding fumes. Many of the potential symptoms from these afflictions are irreversible and progressive, meaning they will worsen over time.

How exposure can be reduced

Depending on the workplace, different measures can be taken to mitigate the risks of welding fume. The HSE outlines several steps to be taken to minimise exposure in the workplace. These steps are designed to help eliminate or minimise exposure to welding fume. The first steps include eliminating or substituting out the risk to prevent exposure entirely. Unfortunately, this is not always a feasible solution for the problem and HSE quotes: “general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control” for welding fume.

Beyond engineering out controls, employers are expected to create and enforce a respiratory protection equipment programme (RPE). “Regardless of duration, HSE will no longer accept any welding undertaken without any suitable exposure control measures in place, as there is no known level of safe exposure,” states HSE. Therefore, when other controls are ineffective or not practical, respiratory protection equipment is required. This can occur in instances where welding is taking place in confined spaces with no extraction ventilation system. In these cases, a CE/EN approved respirator with an appropriate filtration system is required.

RPB Z-Link

When it comes to respiratory protection, the RPB® Z-Link® offers a multi-purpose solution to fit many applications, such as welding, grinding, fettling and burning. Versatile and adaptable, the Z-Link comes complete with a flame-resistant cape and PAPR (powered air purifying respirator), and add-ons can be included to tailor to an individual’s needs. Sets of various EN166 tinted safety lenses are available for different applications and preferences, offering a choice of premium clear, green tint, yellow tint, black, and mirror tint. In addition, the Z-Link can adopt an in-helmet communication system, noise protection earmuffs, and a lighting system to help those working in dark environments.

Furthermore, the Z-Link is a loose-fitting respirator, which makes it the perfect fit for protecting workers with facial hair. Just a morning’s growth of facial hair can break the seal of a tight-fitting respirator, rendering it useless and dangerous. Offering loose-fitting respirators to all employees means no fit-testing and micromanaging shave schedules for men.

About RPB Safety

RPB Safety strives to provide the world’s industrial workers with comfortable, high-quality respiratory protection. For over forty years, the company has researched, developed, and manufactured industrial respirators to protect workers, helping them to enjoy more of life’s best moments. All RPB products are manufactured from a purpose-built facility in the USA, which allows the company to quickly and efficiently service all areas of the globe. Two international offices in New Zealand and the United Kingdom have allowed RPB to grow into a globally trusted brand in the respiratory protection market.

From the company’s start in the abrasive blasting industry, it has greatly expanded its product line with exciting innovations in the welding/fabrication, painting, pharmaceutical, and general engineering and safety industries. RPB’s offering has grown beyond respirators, and now includes complementary solutions such as air monitoring and filtration systems and safety essentials.

As technology and industry progress, RPB continues to innovate and provide revolutionary solutions to the market, ensuring employees make it home safely at the end of the day. With a focus on comfort, productivity, and – most importantly – safety, RPB is here to protect people for life’s best moments.

The Respiratory Protection Brand – RPB.

Contact: RPB Safety LLC,