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Last edited 06 May 2021
Inspections focus on occupational lung disease
In 2020, 12,000 people in the UK died from lung diseases thought to be linked to past exposure associated with work in a range of sectors. There is scientific evidence that exposure to welding fumes can cause lung cancer, and exposure to metalworking fluids can cause a range of lung diseases, including occupational asthma and occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis (OHP), which are debilitating diseases with life changing impact.
On 4 May 2021 - World Asthma Day 2021 - it was announced that health and safety inspectors across the country would be targeting businesses whose workers are involved in welding and use metalworking fluids. The purpose of the inspections is to check that employers are complying with the welding fumes and metalworking fluid guidance. During the visits, duty holders will need to demonstrate they have measures in place to manage risks to protect their workers from occupational lung disease and ‘WorkRight’ to keep workers healthy and safe.
Inspectors will be looking for evidence that employers and workers know the risks, plan their work and use the right controls to protect health. If necessary, they will use enforcement to make sure workers are protected.
While the primary focus will be on lung health during this programme of inspections, if an HSE inspector identifies any other areas of concern, they will take the necessary enforcement action to ensure these are dealt with. This will include making sure that businesses are COVID-secure and are doing all they can to protect their workers from the risk of infection from COVID-19.
 Proactive behaviours
The inspection programme will be supported by HSE’s ‘WorkRight’ campaign, set up to influence employer behaviour by encouraging fabricated metal businesses to download free guidance and advice, increasing their knowledge and capability to protect workers’ health.
HSE’s Acting Head of Manufacturing and Utilities Unit Clare Owen, said, “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. Duty holders 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.”
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