HSE Warning Report

SFS are active advocates of the HSE and are involved in ensuring work places are made a safe environment for employees to operate in, Our weld cleaning units have replaced the dangerous process of using pickling paste in hundreds of business across the UK and Ireland. As we all know Health and Safety in the work place is taken very seriously and industry standards are always being amended, our clients are fully aware of the dangers and have all taken steps to minimise accidents within the work place by using our technology. If you wish to discuss this further with a member of our technical team please give us a call today.

Hazards of using Pickling Paste the HSE Explain

Pickling pastes contain a combination of hydrofluoric acid and nitric acid which can cause serious burn injuries. They are primarily used to post weld clean stainless steels and can be applied by brush or by a spray on process. Their use is relatively widespread amongst stainless steel fabricators although they tend to be used infrequently. As a consequence they are often overlooked by employers when conducting assessments under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH).
Precautions
The hydrofluoric acid concentration of the various proprietary pickling pastes differs slightly. Where it is not reasonably practicable to use an alternative to pickling paste, consideration should be given to using a lower concentration paste. A higher viscosity paste is also less likely to splash when applied. However, before starting work with any pickling paste an assessment should be made of the risks associated with this work. This enables any necessary precautions to be identified and put in place.
Accidents.
Hydrofluoric acid is a highly toxic, reactive chemical. Skin contact with diluted solutions can cause very serious and extremely painful burns. The extent of these burns can readily be missed at the initial stage, as it can take up to 24 hours after contact before the pain is felt. The acid is also capable of destroying flesh long after initial efforts have been made to wash it from the skin. Very small quantities of diluted hydrofluoric acid can cause irreparable damage to the eye. It is toxic by inhalation and has a workplace exposure limit (WEL) of 1.8 parts per million (ppm) (as fluoride) (8-hour time weighted average reference period) and 3 ppm over a 15-minute reference period. This reflects the level of exposure which based on current scientific knowledge will not damage the health of people exposed to it by inhalation day after day.
Source taken from: www.hse.gov.uk 22/07/2014

Case Study

An engineering company has been fined after an apprentice welder suffered acid burns from a toxic cleaning paste. Seventeen-year-old was working at factory in Great Yarmouth when the accident happened in October 2010. Another welder had shown him how to use the preparation, known as pickling paste, to remove burn marks inside small stainless steel tanks, but then left him unsupervised.
He was cleaning one of the tanks when a tub of the paste slipped from his hand and hit a bench. Some of the tub’s contents hit him in the face, leaving him with severe chemical burns to his skin and right eye. The burns have since healed without leaving any significant scarring. The HSE’s investigation discovered that the company in question knew the risks posed by the toxic paste and had previously banned its use, replacing it with a safer electrode-based cleaning system. But the firm then bought more paste and failed to put in a safe system for using it. When managers spotted this, they stopped the practice, but did not make sure the substance was removed from the site. An older worker — who did not realise the paste had been banned — then gave the substance to Amey, who was not aware of its hazardous properties.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act by failing to ensure employees’ safety.
On Friday (19 August), Great Yarmouth magistrates fined it £6000 and ordered it to pay costs of £4846.