Important – Change in HSE Enforcement for Fume Extraction when Mild Steel Welding


By Westermans (

 Overview: Health and Safety have advised new requirements regarding extraction of welding fumes, to take immediate effect.
Who is affected? All workers, employers, self-employed, contractors and any others who undertake welding activities including mild steel, in any industry.

  • New scientific evidence suggests that exposure to all welding fume, including mild steel welding fume, can cause lung cancer.
  • Limited evidence also suggests link to kidney cancer.
  • As a result there is a change in HSE enforcement expectations in relation to the control of exposure of welding fume, including that from mild steel welding.
  • All businesses undertaking welding activities should ensure effective engineering controls are provided and correctly used to control fume arising from those welding activities.
  • Where engineering controls are not adequate to control all fume exposure, adequate and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is also required to control risk from the residual fume.

With immediate effect, there is a strengthening of HSE’s enforcement expectation for all welding fume…
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has brought to light new scientific evidence that exposure to mild steel welding fumes can cause lung cancer and possible kidney cancer in humans. Mild steel welding fume has been re-classified by The Workplace Health Expert Committee as a human carcinogen (a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue).
With immediate effect, there is a strengthening of HSE’s enforcement expectation for all welding fume, including mild steel welding; because general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control.
All welding indoors will require suitable engineering controls such as LEV (Local Exhaust Ventilation) to control the cancer risk as well as control exposure to manganese, which is present in mild steel welding and can cause neurological effects similar to Parkinson’s disease.
This should be supplemented with RPE (Respiratory Protective Equipment) to protect against residual fume where LEV alone does not adequately control exposure.
Welding undertaken outdoors will need appropriate RPE and welders should be suitably instructed and trained in using these controls.
Regardless of duration, HSE will no longer accept any welding undertaken without any suitable exposure control measures in place, as there is no known safe level of exposure.

Action required:

  1. Make sure exposure to any welding fume released is adequately controlled using engineering controls (typically LEV).
  2. Make sure suitable controls are provided for all welding activities, irrelevant of duration.  This includes welding outdoors.
  3. Where engineering controls alone cannot control exposure, then adequate and suitable RPE should be provided to control risk from any residual fume.
  4. Make sure all engineering controls are correctly used, suitably maintained and are subject to thorough examination and test where required.
  5. Make sure any RPE is subject to an RPE  programme. An RPE programme encapsulates all the elements of RPE use you need to ensure that your RPE is effective in protecting the wearer.

Relevant legal documents:

  • Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002