THE Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has revealed it is inspecting fabricated metal businesses across Britain to check they are managing the respiratory risks of welding fumes and metalworking fluids.
During the visits, dutyholders will need to demonstrate they have measures in place to manage risks to protect their workers from occupational lung disease and ‘WorkRight’ to keep workers healthy and safe.
The HSE said that last year in the UK, 12,000 people died from lung diseases estimated to be linked to past exposure, from work in a range of sectors. There is scientific evidence that exposure to welding fumes can cause lung cancer and exposure to metalworking fluids can cause a range of diseases, including occupational asthma and occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis (OHP).
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, they will use enforcement 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, they will take the necessary enforcement action to ensure these are dealt with. This will include making sure that businesses are Covid-secure.
Clare Owen, HSE’s acting head of manufacturing and utilities unit, said, “12,000 people died last year from lung diseases estimated to be linked to past exposure from work, with thousands more cases of ill-health and working days lost. We want businesses whose workers use metalworking fluids and undertake welding activities to take action now to protect their workers’ respiratory health.
“Through visiting metal fabrication businesses, our inspectors are able to speak to a range of dutyholders and look at the measures they have in place to comply with the law and protect workers from lung diseases such as occupational asthma and lung cancer.
“Our inspection initiative aims to ensure employers and workers are aware of the risks associated with the activities they do. They must recognise these dangers and manage these risks through reducing exposure. Dutyholders need to do the right thing, for example, through completing a risk assessment, ensuring workers are trained and reducing exposure using local exhaust ventilation (LEV) and using suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to protect workers, where required.”