Health and Safety Update: February 2019Untitled-1

2017 IARC research prompts HSE to issue warning about welding fume cancer risk

A paper published in The Lancet in April 2017 confirmed the reclassification by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of fume from welding as a Group 1 carcinogen. A Group 1 carcinogen is a substance for which there is "sufficient evidence in humans" that it causes cancer.

man holding gray steel frame

Welding fume had previously been classified (in 1989) as a Group 2B carcinogen - "possibly carcinogenic to humans". UV radiation from welding was classified as Group 1 in 2012 and remains so.

The HSE has recently issued a safety alert (STSU1 - 2019) which increases the HSE's enforcement expectations. It now states that, however short the duration of the task, it will no longer accept welding undertaken without suitable control measures in place. The IARC evidence showed that general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control and suitable engineering controls must be employed. These are most likely to take the form of local exhaust ventilation (LEV) and where this does not adequately control exposure it should be supplemented by suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

Since welding fume had previously been classified as a possible carcinogen, existing control measures put in place should already be reducing exposure as low as reasonably practicable and this new safety bulletin should make no difference if best safety practice is and has been employed. Safety Concepts can carry out airborne substance monitoring to determine potential personal exposure for your workers and advise on suitable engineering controls and RPE.

Fines for dangerous work by subcontractor

A company  has been fined because its subcontractor was working on a roof without suitable fall prevention measures.

The ground maintenance company had employed a subcontractor to carry out roof repairs. Two employees of the subcontractor were photographed working without employing safe systems of work. One man wore a harness while the other held on to strap and rope attached to the harness. Neither man was attached to an anchor point.

The HSE found that the ground maintenance company had failed to ensure that the subcontractor had a properly planned safe system of work. It was prosecuted and fined for the unsafe actions of its subcontractor.

The company was found guilty of a breach of Regulation 15(2) of the Construction (Design and Managment) Regulations 2015, while the subcontractor was prosecuted for breaching Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Scaffold collapse into playground

A Cardiff-based scaffolding firm was found guilty of a breach of Regulation 19(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and received a fine of £24,000 after a 7m high scaffold collapsed onto a neighbouring primary school.

Image result for scaffold free stock photo

Children had been playing in the playground just minutes before the collapse.

The scaffold was 7m high and 8m long at the end of a residential property. The HSE found it was not adequately designed or installed. It had not been tied to the adjaacent building and was "essentially a freestanding structure".

Subcontractor control

Under Regulation 15(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, all companies must "plan, manage and monitor construction work carried out either by the contractor or by workers under the contractor's control, to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, it is carried out without risks to health and safety".

If your company employs subcontractors, you have a legal duty to ensure that the subcontractor works safely. In the event that your subcontractor had an accident or caused harm to a third party, or was found working unsafely, you would have to demonstrate exactly how you took measures to ensure that he had safe systems of work.

Safety Concepts can help you install rigorous subcontractor selection, control and managment systems to ensure that your subcontractors employ strict standards of health and safety.