Farmers are being alerted to a change in health and safety rules affecting anyone who does any welding.
The Health and Safety Executive has recently announced that it is reclassifying welding fumes, including that produced from mild steel, as a human carcinogen and will no longer accept any welding undertaken without suitable exposure control measures being in place, regardless of the duration.
Rob Gazely, farm consultant and health and safety specialist with Strutt & Parker, said: “There is new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IRAC) that exposure to welding fumes can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer.
“As a result, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) announced in February that with immediate effect, it is strengthening its enforcement expectations for welding fumes on the basis that general ventilation does not give sufficient control.
“The new rules – which will apply to all industries, including agriculture – are that any exposure to welding fumes must be controlled by effective engineering controls. In a workshop or indoor environment, this will typically be local exhaust ventilation (LEV) which will also control workers’ exposure to manganese, which has been linked to neurological effects similar to Parkinson’s disease.
“Where LEV alone does not adequately control exposure, respiratory protective equipment (RPE) will need to be provided and employees who carry out welding suitably instructed and trained in its use.
“RPE will also be expected for anyone who is welding outdoors.”
Mr Gazely said a farm’s risk assessments and safe systems of work should be updated to reflect the change.
Any protective equipment will need to be subject to a suitable programme of checks and LEV systems thoroughly examined by a competent person and tested annually.