UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issues new welding safety alert


The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a new safety alert related to mild steel welding as a potential cause of cancer.

The alert follows scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that determined that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans.

As a result, the Workplace Health Expert Committee has endorsed a reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen. The findings have created a change in the HSE enforcement expectations for exposure to welding fume, whereby all businesses undertaking welding activities should ensure effective engineering controls are in place and correctly used to manage fume. The HSE has stated that general ventilation does not achieve the necessary air quality and that suitable controls, such as Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV), should be used. These controls will also reduce exposure to manganese, present in mild steel welding fume, which has been shown to cause neurological effects similar to Parkinson’s disease. Such methods should be supplemented by respiratory protective equipment (RPE) where LEV is deemed inadequate, while RPE should always be used outdoors.

Welders must be suitably instructed and trained in the use of any controls, which should be used irrespective of the duration of the welding as there is no known level of safe exposure. Risk assessments should also be carried out to reflect these new control measures.

The news is being disseminated and was also a topic of discussion at a recent meeting of the International Institute of Welding Health and Safety Committee at TWI Ltd.

You can find out more about the standards that inspectors will now expect in this HSE article on the matter.


TWI is a world leading research and technology organisation with a focus on materials, engineering and manufacturing.