Safety Alert - New Welding Risk Control Measures

As a result of new scientific evidence being published, the HSE now expects a higher standard of welding fume control. What risk control measures should be implemented when welding is undertaken?

Important changes – Why?

In 2017 a paper published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) led to welding fume being designated as a “Group one carcinogen”. It’s relatively rare for the IARC to put a substance in this group; there are only 100 in this category in total. This designation means that there’s evidence to prove that the substance is “Carcinogenic to humans”, i.e. it causes cancer.

HSE’s response

As a result of the IARC’s reclassification, the HSE reviewed its current position on welding. It recognised that the standards of control it had previously described in its guidance would be insufficient to protect workers from the risk of cancer. There was clearly some significant work carried out in the background at the HSE as it was not until 14th January 2019 that it announced any changes.

What changes have the HSE made?

Previously, many businesses had assessed that natural ventilation was likely to provide adequate protection to staff when welding outside, particularly when the work was of short duration. Now, under the new HSE standard, respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is to be used for all outdoor welding operations.

When the work takes place indoors the HSE expects the use of local exhaust ventilation (LEV). If LEV is unable to capture fumes effectively, RPE must be worn as well.

What should business owners do?

Tip 1. Determining whether your LEV is likely to be effective in capturing the fume should take into account visual evidence and the results of your system’s thorough examination and test under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. This examination and test is required every 14 months.

Tip 2. For occasional short duration welding, you should find that a disposable respirator (designed for welding fume) provides suitable protection. However, you may prefer the comfort of a filtered air-fed hood. This hood involves a much higher initial outlay but has several advantages, including that facial hair does not affect performance.

Tip 3. If in doubt regarding RPE, speak to a reputable specialist supplier.  Safety Aide have negotiated with one such supplier, Weldability SIF – contact them on 01462 482200 quoting “SRC-CS4009”. Once you’ve decided on a product, write the specification into your COSHH assessment. 

Tip 4. Review your risk assessments, making sure that they reflect and take into account these stricter requirements. Ensure that staff are instructed in any revised safe method of work.  Safety Aide have created a safe working practice to provide to staff.  To download your free copy – please click here

Note. Given that this is a hot topic, and that inspectors will be checking up on businesses on site, it’s time to review your arrangements against the new expected control standards before the HSE come knocking.

As welding fumes have been classified as a carcinogen, respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is required, even when welding takes place outside. Inside you’ll need extraction equipment and possibly RPE as well. Make sure your methods of work and documentation are up to date.


Be prepared whatever the weather

Slip and trip accidents increase during the winter season for a number of reasons: there is less daylight, leaves fall onto paths and become wet and slippery and cold weather spells cause ice and snow to build up on paths. There are effective actions that you can take to reduce the risk of a slip or trip. Regardless of the size of your site, always ensure that regularly used walkways are promptly tackled.


Is there is enough lighting around your workplace for you and your workers to be able to see and avoid hazards that might be on the ground? The easiest way to find out is to ask your staff. Another way is to shadow your employees for a couple of days, walk the main internal and external routes that they use throughout their working day. It is important to do this both inside and outside of the workplace, as the effect of light changes during the day. If you can’t see hazards on the ground, you will need to improve the lighting (e.g. new lights or changing the type of bulb).

Wet and decaying leaves

Fallen leaves that become wet or have started to decay can create slip risks in two ways, they hide any hazard that may be on the path or they themselves create a slip risk.

Put in place a procedure for removing leaves at regular intervals; you might even consider removing the offending bushes or trees altogether.

Rain water

In dealing with rainwater:

When fitting external paved areas ensure that the material used will be slip resistant when wet.

Discourage people from taking shortcuts over grass or dirt which are likely to become slippery when wet. Consider converting existing shortcuts into proper paths.

On new sites, before laying paths, think about how pedestrians are likely to move around the site. Putting the path in the right place from the start may save you money in the long term.

Many slip accidents happen at building entrances as people entering the building walk in rainwater. Fitting canopies of a good size over building entrances and in the right position can help to prevent this.

If a canopy is not a possibility, consider installing large, absorbent mats or even changing the entrance flooring to one which is non-slip. 

Ice, frost and snow

Identify the outdoor areas used by pedestrians most likely to be affected by ice, for example: - building entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas and areas constantly in the shade or wet.

Monitor the temperature, as prevention is key.

You need to take action whenever freezing temperatures are forecast. Keep up to date by visiting a weather service site such as the Met Office.

Put a procedure in place to prevent an icy surface forming and/or keep pedestrians off the slippery surface;

Use grit or similar, on areas prone to be slippery in frosty, icy conditions;

Consider covering walkways e.g. by an arbour high enough for people to walk through, or use an insulating material on smaller areas overnight.

Divert pedestrians to less slippery walkways and barrier off existing ones.

If warning cones are used, remember to remove them once the hazard has passed or they will eventually be ignored.


The most common method used to de-ice floors is gritting as it is relatively cheap, quick to apply and easy to spread. Rock salt (plain and treated) is the most commonly used ‘grit’. It is the substance used on public roads by the highways authority.

Salt can stop ice forming and cause existing ice or snow to melt. It is most effective when it is ground down, but this will take far longer on pedestrian areas than on roads.

Gritting should be carried out when frost, ice or snow is forecast or when walkways are likely to be damp or wet and the floor temperatures are at, or below freezing. The best times are early in evening before the frost settles and/or early in the morning before employees arrive. Salt doesn’t work instantly; it needs sufficient time to dissolve into the moisture on the floor.

If you grit when it is raining heavily the salt will be washed away, causing a problem if the rain then turns to snow. Compacted snow, which turns to ice, is difficult to treat effectively with grit. Be aware that ‘dawn frost’ can occur on dry surfaces, when early morning dew forms and freezes on impact with the cold surface. It can be difficult to predict when or where this condition will occur.


£850k fine after ladder fall! What went wrong?

The accident

In March 2017 an employee of HPAS Ltd, trading as Safestyle UK (S), fell over three metres from a ladder while trying to install a bedroom window on the first floor of a property. As a result of his fall the worker required surgery for a broken knee cap. Following the accident, the HSE found that the installation of windows was not being routinely carried out from the inside of properties, which could have reduced the work at height risk, and ladders were being used in unsafe ways. There was also no system in place for monitoring the safety of work, leaving employees unsupervised and therefore at greater risk. There were problems in the planning of the work, including the poor selection of equipment, plus the ladder used was not footed or tied which meant it was able to slip.

In court

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR), which states that employers must ensure that work at height is properly planned, appropriately supervised, and carried out in a manner which is safe as far as is reasonably practicable. The company was fined £850,000 with £1,083 in costs.

The right tools

For work of this type a ladder is unlikely to be suitable. They are good for general access but less so as a substitute for a work platform. This is outlined in the legislation. To comply with the WAHR, ladders may only be used for work at height: (1) when a risk assessment has shown that using safer alternatives is not justified because of the low risk and short duration of use; or (2) because there are existing workplace features which prevent other access equipment from being used.

Tip. If your workers need to use both hands to carry out the task while on the ladder or use their hands to carry equipment up and down, a straight ladder is unsuitable. Three points of contact must be maintained.

Correct process

If you have determined that a ladder is the right access equipment, having regard to the above restrictions, there are several actions you must take.

Tip 1. Firstly, if you have five or more employees your risk assessment must be written down. This should demonstrate that the work is low risk and explain the precautions to be taken. 

Tip 2. Train workers in the content of the risk assessment, correct ladder use, care and inspection. You can use the HSE’s leaflet (INDG455) to support your training. It includes sensible advice and clear diagrams showing how three points of contact works in practice and how to secure the ladder.

Tip 3. Check that the specification for ladders is up to the job. For site work, an industrial grade ladder is needed.  A ladder inspection checklist can be downloaded free here.

If three points of contact cannot be maintained, a straight ladder is not suitable. Your risk assessment must show that a ladder is justifiable because the work is low risk and of short duration.


Have You Assessed Your First Aid Needs?

Under health and safety legislation, employers are required to assess their first aid needs and implement the findings. Why not use our document to prepare for a medical emergency?

Is this necessary?

Employers must complete an assessment of their “first aid needs” in order to comply with the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 (HSFAR). There is no legal requirement for you to have written evidence of your assessment, but it’s a good idea to do so. Having your assessment documented provides a record that it was undertaken and it’s easier to review your provision in the future.  Safety Aide provide this assessment document free of charge. Click here for this document.

Tip. The manager completing the assessment should have sufficient knowledge of the business to ensure all circumstances are considered, for example they should know about employees with health conditions, specific hazards, shift patterns and the frequency of lone working.

Completing our document

Our first aid needs assessment is based on HSE guidance to enable you to meet the legal requirements. It begins with an explanation of the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 (HSFAR), followed by a section outlining the basic details of your business and premises. Here you must give details of your location, the name of the manager completing the assessment and its verification, the date of completion and the planned review date. Following this, you are invited to explore four factors which affect your first aid needs. The headings are: (1) “Risk of injury”(2) “Persons at risk”(3) “Location/accessibility to emergency personnel”; and (4) “Hours of work”.

In completing the form you’re guided through the process, considering what types of medical need might arise, how quickly professional help may arrive, and the hours of cover required by first aid personnel. There are notes explaining the content which is expected in each section.

Tip 1. When considering the types of injury or medical incident which might have to be dealt with, review past accidents and talk to first aiders about their experiences.

Tip 2. There is no direct legal requirement for your first aid arrangements to cover non-employees, but you may wish to do so, particularly if your premises are open to the public, or your services are provided for residents or customers.

Ready for action

Having thought through all the factors which affect your decisions you’re then invited to draw conclusions about the required first aid equipment and the numbers and level of training of first aid personnel. For completeness we’ve included a space to describe your arrangements for keeping records of first aid treatment.  Safety Aide provide competitive first aid training across the UK to all BAGMA members at a local centre or on-site. Please contact us

Tip 1. Read the HSE’s guidance as you work through these sections (see the next step). This will help you to identify particular facilities and equipment which are needed, beyond a standard first aid box. It will also help you to decide the degree of training needed for staff.

Tip 2. In the final box summarise any “Further action required”. This might include equipment to be purchased, training requirements and refresher courses, routine checks of first aid boxes, etc.

Our form helps you to review key factors, including the site location, type of workplace, hazards and risks, the convenience of emergency services, first aid equipment and the number and training of first aid personnel. Your completed document provides proof that the exercise has been undertaken properly.



In the Courts - Driver killed by overhead power line strike

The partners of a Suffolk based farm have been sentenced after a haulage contractor was electrocuted to death when his vehicle struck an overhead power line.

On 30 August 2016, Mr Christopher Wilson was killed when his tipping trailer was raised and contacted overhead power lines that ran across part of the yard at the Airfield Grain store, in Parham near Framlingham, Suffolk.

The site was managed by Nicholas and Roger Watts, partners of F S Watts & Sons. Mr Wilson was electrocuted and died at the scene.

Investigating, the HSE found that F S Watts & Sons had failed to take suitable precautions for work near to the overhead electric power lines.

Mr Nicholas Watts and Mr Roger Watts each pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 3(1)(a) contrary to regulation 14, of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and each was fined £9,500 and ordered to pay costs of £4,700.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Saffron Turnell said: “This tragic incident led to the avoidable death of a young father. This death could easily have been prevented if those in control of operations at the grain store had acted to identify and manage the risks involved and put a safe system of work in place.”

What you need to know

Accidental contact with live overhead power lines kills people and causes many serious injuries every year. People are also harmed when a person or object gets too close to a line and a flashover occurs. Work involving high vehicles or long equipment is particularly high risk, such as;

In Agriculture – combines, sprayer booms, materials handlers, tipper vehicles, ladders, irrigation pipes, polytunnels; Remember:

  • going close to a live overhead line can result in a flashover that may kill. Touching a power line is not necessary for danger;
  • voltages lower than 230 volts can kill and injure people;
  • do not mistake overhead power lines on wooden poles for telephone wires; and
  • electricity can bypass wood, plastic or rubber, if it is damp or dirty, and cause fatal shocks. Don't rely on gloves or rubber boots to protect you.

Lessons to be learned

This tragic accident could so easily have been avoided. The risk from inadvertent contact with overhead power lines should have been recognised, the work activities should have been properly planned and suitable control measures put in place. All these considerations should have been included in the field risk assessment process and dealt with before the work commenced. 

Tip 1. Before you conduct your work carry out a field risk assessment of the work area. walk the job and look for hazards that may have an affect on high-level work equipment. This may include power lines, lighting, heating pipes or other services.

Tip 2. If the work presents a risk of coming into contact with high-level electrical services, then check to see if they can be isolated for the duration of the work.

Tip 3. Ensure that you issue a safe system of work to your staff and talk them through it before they start. This is also an ideal opportunity to discuss your field risk assessment.

Above eye level

If your staff intend using work equipment such as extension ladders, elevating platforms, tractors, forklift trucks etc., then ensure that they are instructed to watch out for all high-level services.

For a basic field risk assessment form please click here and download a free copy.  Also, free guidance note GS6 on overhead cables is found at the HSE website.

Failing to identify the presence of overhead electrical power cables cost one father his life. A risk assessment will not satisfy the law unless all such significant hazards have been identified and managed.