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Managers, supervisors & health and safety professionals

The guidance on this page builds on basic, practical advice in the welders’ pages but has further detail, links to generic guidance and some technical information.
It is very difficult to offer simple guidance solutions for every welding and cutting situation. Consequently the advice below asks questions to which you will need to provide the answers. The answers should help you decide what actions to take. The aim is to develop a practical work process that is safe for your particular situation.

Sometimes the questions aim to make you consider the possibility of completely different ways of working. We understand that often there is only one sensible work method however it is useful to consider if there is a better, safer way to do the job possibly eliminating the risk entirely.

Fume and gases from welding and cutting

Minimise fume:

Make it possible for the welder to work so they don’t breathe in the fume cloud:

The simple act of working with the head out of the rising plume of fume can significantly reduce the amount of fume you breathe. Less fume = less risk;

Check the fume control systems are working properly:

For further information on welding fume see the health topics pages. Generic guidance is also available at the HSE LEV webpages and RPE webpages.

Preventing fire and explosion

For further information see the Welding - Preventing fire and explosion pages. For more detailed generic information see the HSE fire and explosion pages. The publication Safe maintenance, repair and cleaning procedures - L137  has details on permit to work systems. The HSE book Guidance on permit to work systems is aimed at the petro-chemical industry but the principles can be applied to any industry sector.

Hot work on tanks and drums that may have had flammable liquids in them

Case study

A 24 yr old Scottish man was using a plasma cutter to remove the lid from an old oil drum. As he started to cut through the metal, it generated a shower of sparks which ignited the flammable vapours inside the drum. The drum exploded. He was airlifted to hospital but died the following morning. His employer was prosecuted and fined £15000. See the press release for more details.

Carriage of an Oxy/acetylene (or Oxygen/LPG) burning set in vans

For further information see the Welding - Preventing fire and explosion pages and the specific page on small scale carriage of flammable gases. Generic guidance is also available at the HSE fire and explosion web pages.

Lack of oxygen in confined spaces

Use of inert gases and some common chemical reactions (eg rusting) can reduce the amount of oxygen inside enclosed spaces such as tanks, pipes and pits.
Working in these locations is dangerous and should be planned properly. Poorly planned work in confined spaces can result in multiple deaths.

For further information see the welding confined spaces web page and the specific guidance document Confined spaces: A brief guide to working safely. Generic guidance is also available at the HSE confined spaces web pages. The publication, Safe maintenance, repair and cleaning procedures - L137  has details on permit to work systems. The HSE book Guidance on permit to work systems is aimed at the petro-chemical industry but the principles can be applied to any industry sector.

Noise and vibration

Noise induced hearing loss is a common insurance claim against employers. TIG is a relatively quiet arc welding process and does not normally generate harmful levels of noise. The other electric arc welding processes (flux core, MMA, MAG, etc) do generate harmful levels of noise. However welders often need to use grinders, scalers, arc gougers and other tools that can generate significant amounts of noise and vibration. As the manager you can:

It is likely that you will have to provide hearing protection to your workers who weld;

For further information see the noise and vibration page or the generic HSE noise web pages and vibration pages.

Electric shock

For further information see the welding electrical hazards page. Generic guidance is also available at the HSE Electrical safety web pages.

Updated 2016-02-25