EH40/2005 Updated to include new and revised Workplace Exposure Limits
On 17 January 2020 the HSE published a revised version of EH40/2005 ‘Workplace exposure limits’.
This has been updated in order to implement amendments to the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (2004/37/EC) which introduces or revises 13 binding occupational exposure limit values for a number of carcinogenic substances.
Occupational exposure limits are implemented in the UK via the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations as Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) via Table 1 of EH40/2005 ‘Workplace exposure limits’ for use with COSHH.
COSHH requires exposure to carcinogenic substances to be reduced to ‘as low as is reasonably practicable’.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The WELs listed in Table 1 of EH40/2005 ‘Workplace Exposure Limits’ supersede any limits contained in other HSE guidance or publications.
HSE revise guidance for exposure to welding fumes
In February 2019 the HSE announced the introduction of enforced control measures for welding operations following the classification of welding fumes and UV radiation as a Group one carcinogenic.
All welding fume, no matter how small the amount, has the potential to cause lung cancer, so employers must ensure appropriate controls are put in place to control the risk.
Employers should consider the following order of controls for welding fumes:
- – avoidance or reduction of exposure;
- – exhaust ventilation (LEV) where work can’t be avoided;
- – respiratory protective equipment (RPE), where LEV can’t achieve adequate controls alone or is not reasonably practicable;
- – personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers undertaking any welding task.
All control measures must be maintained to ensure workers are protected from health risks and a series of health surveillance should be ongoing to monitor employee health.
As with anything related to workplace health and safety, employers must sure employees are properly trained and made aware of the risks posed by welding fumes, along with the appropriate controls in place to minimise the risks.
The revised advice sheets for welding help employers assess and control risks from hazardous substances in the workplace. They describe good practice for controlling exposure to welding fume and allied processes.
They consist of:
- WL0 – Advice for managers;
WL2 – Welding in confined/limited/restricted spaces;
WL3 – Welding fume control;
WL14 – Manual gas and oxy-gas cutting;
WL15 – Plasma arc cutting: fixed equipment;
WL16 – Arc-air gouging (air-carbon gouging);
WL18 – Surface preparation: pressure blasting (small items);
WL19 – Surface preparation: pressure blasting (medium-sized items);
WL20 – Surface preparation: pressure blasting (large items);
WL21 – Weld cleaning with pickling paste.
HSE release 2018/2019 Statistics
The annual report includes statistics for the following:
- work-related ill health;
- workplace injuries;
- working days lost;
- enforcement action taken;
- the associated costs to Great Britain.
Figures have shown that around 581,000 workers sustained non-fatal injuries between 2018 and 2019 – and a shocking 1.4 million workers suffering from work-related ill-health. The statistics, compiled from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) as well as other sources, have shown (in summary) that there were:
- 147 fatal injuries at work;
- 1.4 million working people that are suffering from a work-related illness;
- 364 cases prosecuted, and subsequently resulted in a conviction – fines from these totaled to nearly £54.5 million;
- 28.2 million working days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury.
In total, the estimated economic cost to Great Britain totaled near to £15 billion in the period between 2017/2018. There has been no recent significant changes to industries in which there is a higher risk of sustaining an injury whilst at work, with both construction and agriculture being among the higher-risk sectors.
Despite Great Britain being one of the safest places to work, the reported figures have highlighted that there are still areas to be improved upon, in order to prevent fatalities, injuries and ill-health. The figures highlight the scale of the challenge ahead, in making the country a healthier and safer place to work.
“Great Britain’s position as one of the safest places to work should be a point of pride for us all, but these figures show that there is still much to be done to ensure the workers go home both healthy and safe. These figures should highlight to us all the vital importance of managing risk and promoting behaviours to improve the standard of good health and safety practice in the workplace.
We must all share the responsibility of ensuring everybody is aware of what they need to do to work right by preventing work-related incidents, and making our places of work healthier and safer for everyone “