Control the risk
Consider controls in this order for all welding work:
- Avoid or reduce exposure
- Use local exhaust ventilation (LEV) to take the fume away at source
- Use suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE), for example a facemask, to protect workers from inhaling fumes
1. Avoid or reduce exposure
To protect your workers from the health risks of inhaling welding fume, first think about if you can use alternative joining, cutting or surface preparation methods that produce less fume or dust.
Consider if you could avoid or reduce exposure by doing the job in a different way. For example, can you:
- automate or mechanise the process, by using distance welding, turntables or enclosing the work
- reduce the amount of welding
- use materials or a process that generates less fume, for example using MIG welding (an arc welding process) instead of MMA welding (stick welding)
- use clean metals, for example pre-fabrication shaping or better machining
2. Use local exhaust ventilation (LEV)
If you can't avoid welding in your workplace, use local exhaust ventilation systems for indoor working to help remove fume at its source. This is also known as extraction or fume control.
This will protect your welder from exposure to welding fume. It will also help to protect others nearby.
LEV works by using an air-flow to remove contaminated air from the process for capture by the hood. Types of LEV include:
- on-torch extraction
- extracted benches
- extracted booths
- movable LEV
There is guidance on choosing the right LEV in our COSHH essentials welding sheets.
3. Use suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE)
If you cannot achieve adequate control from LEV alone, or if it is not reasonably practicable to provide LEV, you must provide your workers with suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE). For example, if they're welding with LEV but not all the fume is captured you might be able to see residual uncaptured fume, or in the case of TIG welding, smell uncaptured ozone, then you're not controlling the risk and you should also provide respiratory protective equipment.
When you provide RPE for your workers:
- use an FFP3 disposable mask or half-mask with P3 filter , for work of up to an hour
- use battery-powered air-fed protective equipment for longer duration work, with a minimum assigned protection factor of 20 (APF20)
- ensure RPE wearers are clean shaven and provide face-fit testing for them
For welding outdoors, local exhaust ventilation will not work, so workers should use suitable RPE to control exposure.
You should always provide appropriate:
- personal protective equipment for your welders
- shielding to protect other workers from eye damage