Applying the Hierarchy of Control to Welding Fume
Earlier this month the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) began a campaign against occupational lung disease with their main focus on businesses whose workers undertake welding and use metalworking fluids (MWF). In a recent blog, I discussed the hierarchy of control and the main principles behind it. Since the HSE inspectors are currently visiting metal fabrication businesses, we thought it would be useful to demonstrate how to apply the hierarchy of to control to reduce exposure to welding fume.
One of the ways we categorised controls measures was as follows:
Procedural / Organisational Controls
Personal Protective Equipment
Examples of welding control measures for each of these control measures are as follows:
Elimination – can the job be redesigned so there is less hot work by methods such as CAD/3D design techniques.
Substitution – Can the metal or welding technique be replaced with a less hazardous one.
Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) – use local exhaust ventilation systems to capture and contain the contaminant at source.
Work Equipment – using a turntable to allow optimal welding position to prevent fumes rising into the welder’s face. This works better with LEV!
General Ventilation – ensuring adequate air movement in the room to dilute and remove contaminants.
Procedural / Organisational Controls
Implement a dedicated area for welding and control access to those who only need to be in the area.
Minimise the work carried out in enclosed or confined spaces as this will significantly increase exposure.
Implement a maintenance and test regime for all control measures, especially LEV. We have more information on LEV in this previous blog but to keep things brief, there is a legal obligation which requires all local exhaust ventilation systems to be thoroughly examined and tested at least every 14 months!
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
In the case of welding fume, respiratory protective equipment (RPE) will be required to control inhalation exposure. We have already written blogs on RPE which you can check out by clicking here and here. Be sure to check these out as we go into more detail on fitting, maintenance, and storage.
To summarise, a powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) with a welding visor/helmet is usually required where there is still some residual fume following other controls. The PAPR will only protect the wearer so be sure there are no other operatives working in the area – you did see that step on implementing a dedicated area for welding, right?
When you need to decide on what control measures to pick, be sure to start at the top of the hierarchy and prioritise these controls where possible. This is essential when considering multiple control measures as it ensures the more effective control is chosen. Although this is a useful tool, it is likely that in practice you will require multiple measures to control exposure. Once again, we cannot state this enough; though the use of PPE can be justifiable in certain situations, such as cleaning, it should never be the first choice when controlling exposure to hazardous substances. Make sure you work through the hierarchy of control before settling with PPE as option.
How we can help
At Blue Turtle Ltd, we provide a range of occupational hygiene monitoring services and can help you carry out your occupational health risk assessment. We can also help you to select the optimum control measures, better understand your local exhaust ventilation systems through LEV examination and testing services and carry out occupational exposure monitoring / personal exposure monitoring services to ensure you meet your legal obligations under the COSHH Regulations.
We help businesses of all types manage their workplace health hazards. Our experienced consultants can provide practical advice on how to achieve adequate control through process changes, improvements, or adopting/changing work practices to reduce the risk as low as reasonably practicable.
Whatever your Occupational Hygiene needs are, Blue Turtle Ltd is here to help your business protect your workforce and help you meet your legal obligations.
Give us a call today to discuss your needs or if you prefer, complete the online form with a brief outline of your business needs and/or concerns.
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