HSE focus-in on the Hazards of Welding Fume

Months after the HSE issued a change in their guidance and enforcement expectations in relation to the control of exposure to welding fume, including fume from mild steel welding, the response and industry activity has not yet died down.


The HSE have begun conducting visits to sites where welding is being carried out, along with any other business where fumes, dusts, vapours or small fibres considered detrimental to human health might be present or created. They are very keen on seeing welding fume control systematically enforced and companies who are found not in compliance with the HSE enforcement expectations can expect to be given an improvement notice, enforcement order or fine. There is no window of leniency; businesses are expected to have already tackled this problem.


Compliance with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations Act 2002 means, in part, accepting that opening a window or relying on general ventilation is inadequate in terms of welding fume control. Similarly, welding outside will require at the very least, suitable respiratory protection equipment (RPE).  This has led to a shift towards fume extraction at-source and coincides with the emergence of a range of new, next generation fume extraction torches recently launched by Extractability, a division of Weldability Sif.


The SifGUN Evolution fume extraction MIG Torch is more robust than competing models, with a sturdy metal swan neck, available in a range of angles and an ergonomic, easy to manipulate, metal trigger. The brand-new fume extraction concept includes improved airflow and greater visibility of the weld pool, so while the gun may look very similar, the internals have been totally upgraded. This kind of on-torch extraction offers a 95% reduction of fumes and the SifGUN features an optimised nozzle, which balances pressures to prevent disruption of the shielding gases. This means you can use the same shielding gas flow rates as with a standard MIG torch.


Businesses with appropriate fume extraction systems could still face fines, however, if their equipment hasn’t been COSHH tested annually or records of up-to-date testing cannot be provided. As well as a range of high-spec, low-cost fume control solutions, Extractability provide a comprehensive on-site LEV COSHH testing service on all makes and types of welding fume and dust extraction equipment, working strictly in accordance with HSE guidelines.





It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure up-to-date fume extraction equipment is being used correctly. The ProtectoScan Edi is an indoor Environmental Detection Instrument (Edi) that measures particulate levels, records real-time data and can switch on your fume extraction equipment once a pre-set level has been detected. Edi has an LED traffic light display, alerting users to any notable issues and providing an instant visual representation of what is going on in the workshop. Edi will also measure noise, temperature and humidity and is the perfect solution for monitoring and recording exposure levels, every second of the day, 365 days a year.


With the recent Industry 4.0 trend seeing a greater integration of automation and data exchange in the manufacturing sector, the ProtectoScan Edi is Extractability’s boldest step yet to help employers remove hazards from the workplace, stay within the regulations and improve health and safety among their workforce, creating a safe and clean workplace environment for everyone.

Read HSE regulations CASE STUDY

The Health and Safety Executive has issued a safety alert as a result of new scientific evidence which suggests that exposure to all welding fume, including mild steel welding fume, can cause lung cancer.


As part of bulletin number STSU1 – 2019, the HSE has issued a change in HSE enforcement expectations in relation to the control of exposure of welding fume, including that from mild steel welding.


All those undertaking welding activities should ensure effective engineering controls are provided and correctly used to control fume arising from those welding activities and where engineering controls are not adequate to control all fume exposure, adequate and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is also required to control risk from the residual fume.


There is also limited evidence linked to kidney cancer.

The alert was issued after new scientific evidence from the International Agency for Research on Cancer suggested that exposure to mild steel welding fume can cause lung cancer and possibly kidney cancer in humans. The Workplace Health Expert Committee has endorsed the reclassification of mild steel welding fume as a human carcinogen.

As a result of this with immediate effect, there is a strengthening of HSE’s enforcement expectation for all welding fume, including mild steel welding; because general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control.


In order to control the cancer risk those involved in the process will require suitable engineering controls for all welding activities indoors e.g. Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV). Extraction will also control exposure to manganese, which is present in mild steel welding fume, which can cause neurological effects similar to Parkinson’s disease.

Where LEV alone does not adequately control exposure, it should be supplemented by adequate and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to protect against the residual fume.


Appropriate RPE should be provided for welding outdoors. Those involved should also ensure welders are suitably instructed and trained in the use of these controls.

Regardless of duration, the HSE will no longer accept any welding undertaken without any suitable exposure control measures in place, as there is no known level of safe exposure.

Risk assessments should reflect the change in the expected control measures.


It is now required that those involved in the process should:

1. Make sure exposure to any welding fume released is adequately controlled using engineering controls (typically LEV).

2. Make sure suitable controls are provided for all welding activities, irrelevant of duration. This includes welding outdoors.

3. Where engineering controls alone cannot control exposure, then adequate and suitable RPE should be provided to control risk from any residual fume.

4. Make sure all engineering controls are correctly used, suitably maintained and are subject to thorough examination and test where required.

5. Make sure any RPE is subject to an RPE programme. An RPE programme encapsulates all the elements of RPE use needed to ensure that the RPE undertaken is effective in protecting the wearer.





Mobile fume extraction


SifGun fume
extraction torch

Phantom Air papr

 New safety enforcements for Mild Steel Welding Fume

Extractability named Best Safety Product Supplier at The Welding World Awards 2018

2018 has been a big year for Extractability so far, starting off with a new path into the Environmental Detection market with the launch of the ProtectoScan EDI. Coming hot on its trail is a new award win under its belt – and we’re not even halfway through the year!


Extractability was crowned Best Safety Product Supplier at The Welding World Awards 2018, with Projects Director Lee Darton picking up the award on the big night. The company fought off stiff competition for the award, ultimately winning over the judges with its “passion for ensuring the industry is as safe as it can be.”


The judges were also impressed by how Extractability “have emerged within the fume extraction market with a product range that is practical and efficient, and the recent arrival of EDI the all-new Environment Detection Instrument sets a new bar in safety for the protection of the welder. This product alone persuaded the Judges that they were worthy winners of this year’s award.”


The Welding World Awards themselves are impartial, independent awards that can be won by any company operating in the welding industry, and a unique highlight in the welding industry calendar. This year festivities were hosted by none other than Eamonn Holmes, with an evening full of music, magic and merriment taking place on April 11th at Birmingham’s Hilton Metropole Hotel.


Commenting on the awards, Lee Darton said “I was humbled for Extractability to be recognised at The Welding World Awards 2018. This was truly a perfect tribute to the hard work of the entire Extractability team, and a fantastic recognition of all our hard efforts in the Safety Product field. And what an amazing night it was, too!”

5 Ways to Keep Safe while Welding

The dangers of welding are universal across the trade - whether you work for yourself or a multi-million pound company. Here are 5 tips to improve your safety while welding including advice that also improves productivity.


1. Read the Manual

A welder's operating manual contains important safety guidelines, as well as information regarding procedures that help maximise the machine's capabilities. Make sure everyone who operates the machine is familiar with it's contents. If the manual becomes lost or damaged, contact the manufacturer for a replacement. Many manufacturers provide manuals online to download and print.

2. Cover up

Any exposed skin is at risk to the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays, infrared rays, the welding arc, spatter, sparks and heat. Sparks can catch in open pockets, trouser cuffs or down a shirt that isn't fully buttoned. Make sure all exposed areas are covered and protected from all the potential dangers. Ensure your personal protective equipment (PPE) including face and eye protection is CE approved to the standard required for maximum protection.

3. Breathe Clean Air

Fumes and smoke produced during welding pose a serious health hazard. When welding in confined spaces, toxic fumes can build up, or shielding gasses may replace breathable air. Fume extraction at source or fixed fume extraction equipment is needed to remove fumes from the area and ensure enough clean air is available. Some materials specifically require respirators when welding, and you should consult the manufacturer's safety data sheet, your welding engineer or industrial safety specialist for correct procedures.

4. Avoid seeing the Light

It only takes a moment of exposure to a welding arc's rays for unprotected eyes to experience "arc eye", a painful condition that may not appear until hours after the exposure. Welding Helmets should be fitted with a proper filter shade to protect the operator's face and eyes when welding or watching. Approved safety glasses and ear protection should also be worn under the helmet. Install welding screens where appropriate to protect others from the hazards of the arc.

5. Auto-Darkening Helmets

The sensors on an auto-darkening helmet darken the lens in a fraction of a second. All auto-darkening helmets should meet EN 175B and EN 379 standards. ADF helmets react at speeds of 1/10,000th to 1/20,000th of a second and have adjustable shade settings from shade 9 to 13 for welding. ADF helmets also have adjustable sensitivity (useful for low amperage welding) and delay controls to adjust how long the lens stays dark after the arc stops.

Ultimate Extraction for new EEF Technology Training Centre

While our sister company Weldability-Sif was busy decking out the 16 welding bays at the new EEF TTC on The Aston Training Campus in Birmingham, we were installing a brand new extraction system to keep their students and teachers safe.

Welding can be a dangerous game. Electric shock, fires and injury from insufficient PPE are all a major risk to any welder. Perhaps a less obvious risk, however, is from exposure to welding fume which can cause a myriad of health issues. Not only is it vital that we promise to protect future welders if we hope to close the UK skills gap, but to be able to work and learn in a clean and risk free environment is a right that should extend to everybody.

The UK Skills gap costs businesses £2 billion a year as they labour to find suitable employees. An astounding 90% of employers have reported struggling to recruit employees in the last year. It is taking companies on average 2 months longer to fill a vacancy and costing them millions as they hike salaries in order to attract applicants. Many are opting to provide on-the-job training because they cannot find recruits with the required skillsets. Skills training centres such as those being provided by EEF and Weldability-Sif are increasingly important for closing the gap



We kitted EEF out with our ProtectoCube which is a filter unit equipped with filter cartridges applicable for nearly every task in the area of fume and dust filtration. The polluted air is extracted by means of the ventilator and guided towards the filtering section. The toxic particles are deposited on the surface of the filter cartridges. The cartridges are cleaned automatically by compressed air. The particles deposited on the cartridge are detached by the compressed air blast and reach a dust collecting tank. The cleaned air is recycled to the working space without any heat loss.