HSE eBulletin: Work Right to protect workers’ lung health

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HSE eBulletin

Top tips for metal fabricators

Breathing in welding fume and metalworking fluids can cause serious lung diseases.


HSE inspectors continue to visit businesses across Great Britain as part of our targeted inspections programme. Inspectors are checking that welding and use of metalworking fluids are correctly managed and carried out to minimise risk to workers’ health.


If your workers use metalworking fluids or undertake welding activities, we have free resources available to ensure your business is taking the necessary precautions.


Visit our new Work Right campaigns website to download our top tips and watch a presentation on metalworking fluids. You can also access specific HSE guidance to help manage the risks from welding fumes and metalworking fluids


During the inspections, one of the main issues identified for controlling exposure to metalworking fluid mist has been the lack of local exhaust ventilation (LEV) on CNC machines, guidance on this key control measure can be found on our website.  


Health surveillance for people using metalworking fluids has also been required, providing a scheme of repeated health checks to identify if an employee’s health is being adversely affected by their work. Further information on setting up a health surveillance system is available.


Earlier this year, an engineering company was fined £100,000 when an employee developed an allergic form of dermatitis after coming into contact with metalworking fluids. This HSE prosecution highlights the importance of implementing controls to prevent skin contact.


Less than half of sites inspected in our targeted inspections programme had procedures in place to review their welding fume controls.


COSHH regulations require employers to consider the effectiveness of the controls in place to minimise exposure to welding fume. If you do not follow relevant guidance and do not meet the control standards expected in COSHH Essentials, you should be able to demonstrate that the controls being used are effective at protecting the health of your workers.


Suitable techniques to review fume controls are:

  • Biological monitoring of workers exposed to welding fume to measure exposure and the effectiveness of controls such as respiratory protective equipment (RPE), as well as, fume extraction systems and safe working procedures
  • Personal air sampling as part of an occupational hygiene survey to determine the workers’ daily exposure to welding fume.
  • Use of visual indicators such as smoke tubes, dust lamps and air flow measurements to demonstrate how well the local exhaust ventilation (LEV) system captures and removes the fume

If your business relies on LEV to protect your workers from welding fume, make sure you read our guidance on using and maintaining LEV.


Where LEV does not control the risks from welding fume, getting the right Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is critical.

Register for the next free SHEP webinar

Earlier this year, HSE inspectors presented at the Safety and Health Engineering Partnership (SHEP) Welding Fume and Metalworking Fluid Webinar.


A free recording of the webinar is available to view here.


Following the success of the event, SHEP are preparing to host another webinar on 22 July 2021 which will include guest speakers from HSE and the United Kingdom Lubricants Association.


There will be a presentation on Local Exhaust Ventilation, a key control measure for metalworking fluids and welding fume and the panel of HSE inspectors will also take part in an extended Q&A session to enable them to respond to as many questions as possible.


Find out more about the webinar


Register for the webinar

HSE shines a spotlight on lung disease

Living with lung disease has a devastating impact on workers’ lives as well as the lives of their families.


Last week was Breathe Easy Week, the UK’s awareness week to promote lung health.


Each year, it is estimated that 12,000 people die from work-related lung diseases linked to past exposure. HSE is shining a light on work-related lung diseases to ensure employers whose workers are at risk of breathing in certain dusts, gases, fumes and vapours in the workplace, have effective control measures in place to protect workers from occupational lung disease.


To protect workers from serious, long-term lung damage, it is vital that employers assess the risks, plan their work and are taking the necessary precautions to protect their workers’ respiratory health and Work Right. We have guidance and resources available for work within a range of sectors.


If you’re unsure of where to get help for the specific control measures needed for your business, our website has advice and resources to help you.  


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