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2020 / 2021 Edition

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HSE focuses on occupational lung disease

Welding

Inspections to check firms are managing risks from welding fumes and metalworking fluids

FROM today, World Asthma Day 2021, Health and Safety Executive inspectors across Great Britain will be targeting businesses whose workers undertake welding and use metalworking fluids to check that they are complying with welding fumes guidance and metalworking fluid guidance.

During the visits, duty holders will need to demonstrate they have risk-management measures in place to protect their workers from occupational lung disease and keep them healthy and safe.

Last year in the UK, 12,000 people died from lung diseases estimated to be linked to past work exposure in a range of sectors. Scientific evidence indicates that exposure to welding fumes can cause lung cancer and exposure to metalworking fluids can cause a range of lung diseases, including occupational asthma and occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis (OHP), which are debilitating diseases with life-changing impact.

Inspectors will be looking for evidence of employers and workers knowing the risks, planning their work and using the right controls to protect workers’ health. If necessary, enforcement will be used to make sure workers are protected.

While the primary focus will be on lung health during this programme of inspections, if an HSE inspector identifies any other areas of concern, the necessary enforcement action will be taken to ensure these are dealt with too. This will include making sure that businesses are Covid-secure and doing all they can to protect their workers from the risk of coronavirus.

Clare Owen, acting head of the HSE’s manufacturing and utilities unit, said: ‘Our inspection initiative aims to ensure employers and workers are aware of the risks associated with the activities they do. We want businesses whose workers use metalworking fluids and undertake welding activities to take action now to protect their workers from lung diseases such as occupational asthma and lung cancer.

Duty holders need to do the right thing, for example, through completing a risk assessment, ensuring workers are trained, reducing exposure using local exhaust ventilation (LEV), and using suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to protect workers, where required.’

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