Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What legislation applies to welding and welding fume?
- Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005
- Safety Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 to 2020
- Safety Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) Regulations 2001 to 2021
- Safety Health and Welfare at Work (Carcinogens) Regulations 2001 to 2019 – while welding fume is not classified as a carcinogen under these regulations, some of the components of welding fume are carcinogenic e.g. Chromium VI, nickel.
- 2021 Code of Practice for the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Chemical Agents) Regulations (2001-2021) and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Carcinogens) Regulations (2001-2019)
Is legislation changing for welding? / Is welding fume carcinogenic?
Welding fumes can contain carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductive toxic components, such as chromium(VI) compounds, nickel compounds, cadmium and its inorganic compounds, beryllium and inorganic beryllium compounds, inorganic lead and its compounds, cobalt and carcinogenic cobalt compounds. This is due to specific constituents of the fume being classified under CLP (as per the above examples). Welding fume containing these are regarded as carcinogenic and are regulated under Carcinogens Legislation.
The update to the Carcinogens Directive to include reprotoxins means that the carbon monoxide produced during welding is also subject to the Carcinogens Regulations (update pending).
In addition, there is currently a proposal to add Welding fume to Annex 1 of the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive. This Annex contains a list of substances, mixtures and processes which are carcinogenic. The definition of ‘carcinogen’ means a substance, mixture or process referred to in Annex I as well as a substance or mixture released by a process referred to in that Annex. This means all welding fumes will be classified as carcinogenic.
Currently, as with any chemical, a risk assessment must be completed and controls introduced to reduce exposure as low as reasonably practicable.
Do REACH or CLP apply to Welding Fume? REACH and CLP do not apply to welding fume as it is not a substance, it is process generated.
However, some of the consumables used in welding are considered hazardous for example, argon and acetylene are subject to REACH and CLP. They must have a Safety Data Sheet (available free of charge from your supplier) and be labelled according to the CLP Regulation.
Does COSHH apply to welding and welding fume?
No, COSHH refers to the UK Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations so is not applicable in the Republic of Ireland.
Is there an official, specific or mandatory Health and Safety training or induction in Ireland for Welding? What training is required for welders?
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 emphasises the need to provide employees with instruction, information and training necessary to ensure their health and safety. Providing employees with health and safety information and training reduces the chance of them suffering injuries or ill health. It helps them acquire the skills, knowledge and attitude to make them competent in the safety and health aspects of their work and instils a positive health and safety culture.
Provide welders with information and training on:
- The hazards and risks within the workplace
- The hazards and risks affecting specific tasks or operations carried out by the person.
- The control measures in place to minimise exposure to these risks.
- Information and instructions on the job to be carried out and how to use the control measures.
- Measures to be taken in an emergency.
Training means showing a person the correct method of doing a task and making sure that he or she can carry out the task correctly and safely.
Apprenticeships, traineeships and QQI awards are available for example, SOLAS Traineeship , http://www.apprenticeship.ie/
Welders in certain industries also need to comply with standards or legislation relevant to the industry for example, Construction Products Regulation (NSAI Construction Standards)
What are the requirements for welding PPE and RPE?
PPE may not be sold or used unless it meets basic health and safety requirements.
- At a minimum, it must be CE marked.
- Different types of PPE are required when welding to protect against heat, splatter, noise, UV light, fumes etc. They must fit together properly and not create additional dangers.
- The numerous European Norm (EN) standards contain design, marking and performance requirements for manufacturers of the different types of equipment. There are standards covering impact resistance, auto-darkening welding filters and fixed filters.
- Reputable welding equipment suppliers or specialised PPE supplies will be able to help you make the correct choice. It is important the person you are seeking advice from knows what they are talking about. See PPE FAQ and RPE
- Use an air supplied or powered respirator (PAPR) when a welder is required to carry out welding for more than 1 hour per day.
- Pay particular attention to RPE choice when welding in confined space or where there is a risk of oxygen depletion.
- There are additional benefits when selecting a powered respirator that has an integral welding visor to protect the skin and eyes from UV and an additional clear viewing window. This device protects welders as the respirator remains in place when checking their weld. If they do not have this device, welders must wait until all the visible fume has disappeared before lifting their visors
Are there radiation risks from electrodes?
TIG welding often used Thoriated Tungsten Electrodes. During the grinding /sharpening of electrode tips, there is generation of radioactive dust (alpha emitter). Local exhaust ventilation should be provided during the grinding operation. The use of alternative electrodes should be looked at.
Is Health Surveillance required for welders?
Health surveillance is a system of on-going health checks of workers liable to be exposed to substances hazardous to health, such as welding fume. Health surveillance allows for early identification of ill health and helps identify any corrective action needed. Health surveillance is a requirement of Section 22 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 if a risk assessment identifies that employees are exposed to noise or vibration, solvents, fumes, dusts, biological agents and other substances hazardous to health.
Health Surveillance techniques should be used to establish a baseline as part of a pre-employment medical. The employer should identify if a potential employee has existing conditions such as asthma or dermatitis that could be aggravated by their potential work activities such as contact with sensitizers or has an identifiable pre-existing level of hearing loss or respiratory problem. Health surveillance is not a substitute for undertaking a risk assessment or using effective controls. Health surveillance can sometimes be used to help identify where more needs to be done to control risks. Where early signs of work-related ill health are detected, employers should take action to prevent further harm and protect employees.
What is Biological Monitoring?
Biological monitoring is a chemical exposure assessment method involving the analysis of blood, urine, hair or exhaled breath samples from workers, for a hazardous substance or its metabolites (breakdown products in the body). It can be used as part of an overall strategy for controlling hazardous chemicals within the workplace, by reducing uncertainty in relation to the effectiveness of control measures in place (for example, engineering control measures or PPE) and by monitoring work practices. The aim of biological monitoring is to detect hazardous substances in the body before adverse health effects occur. It is aim is to prevent rather than detect adverse changes. This biological data can therefore provide a better measure of risk than is possible through air/environmental monitoring and is complementary to this. See Biological Monitoring Guidelines
Can occupational hygiene monitoring prove that there is no risk?
There is no single welding fume exposure limit. As the composition of the welding fume varies, each of the constituents of the welding fume would need to identified and then measured individually.
The occupational exposure limits for constituents of welding fume have been lowered and will continue to decrease, for example, chromium (VI) compounds. See the Chemical Agents Code of Practice 2021.
- Chromium (VI) compounds - 0.025 mg/m3 for welding or plasma cutting processes or similar work processes that generate fume until 17 January 2025. Then OEL is 0.005 mg/m3
- Manganese, fume (as Mn)- (0.2 mg/m3 Inhalable)
- Manganese and inorganic manganese compounds (as Mn) - 0.2 mg/m3(Inhalable), 0.05 mg/m3 (Respirable)
Exposure monitoring can be considered as a check on the effectiveness of control measures.