UK's HSE launches lungs-focused programme of inspections for May

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HSE is launching a programme of inspections focused on lung health this month.

Announced for World Asthma Day 2021, 4 May, health and safety inspectors will be targeting businesses working with welding and metalworking fluids to check they are complying with guidance.

During the visits, dutyholders will need to demonstrate they have measures in place to manage risks to protect their workers from occupational lung disease.

Exposure to welding fumes and metalworking fluids can cause a range of lung diseases. Photograph: iStock / maki shmaki

Last year in the UK, 12,000 people died from lung diseases estimated to be linked to past exposure at work.

Welding fume is classified as a category 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. 

Exposure to welding fumes and metalworking fluids can cause a range of lung diseases, including occupational asthma and occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis (OHP), which are debilitating diseases with life changing impacts.

Commenting on the inspection programme, HSE’s Acting Head of Manufacturing and Utilities Unit, Clare Owen, said: “12,000 people died last year from lung diseases estimated to be linked to past exposure from work, with thousands more cases of ill-health and working days lost.

Welders at work on huge steel beams. Photograph: iStock

"We want businesses whose workers use metalworking fluids and undertake welding activities to take action now to protect their workers’ respiratory health."

She continued: “Our inspection initiative aims to ensure employers and workers are aware of the risks associated with the activities they do. They must recognise these dangers and manage these risks through reducing exposure.

"Dutyholders need to do the right thing, for example, through completing a risk assessment, ensuring workers are trained and reducing exposure using local exhaust ventilation (LEV) and using suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to protect workers, where required.”

While the focus will be on lung health, HSE inspectors will be ready this month to take enforcement action on any other areas of concern that they see. This includes making sure that businesses are Covid-secure.

Alongside welding related inspections, HSE has launched a month-long programme of awareness raising centred on lung health. It will include communications on the sectors most at risk, what duty holders need to do and where to get more help.

Awareness raising will continue into June, when the British Lung Foundation marks the 22 June with Love your Lungs week.

Read more about work to reduce lung cancer in the welding industry here



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