The woodworking industry has one of the highest accident rates in manufacturing, with approximately 25% of accidents caused by contact with moving machinery. In addition, however, those in woodworking professions can also be more prone to certain types of occupational ill health than those working in other construction trades. Wood dust can cause serious long term health problems such as asthma, which carpenters and joiners are four times more likely to suffer from compared with other UK workers. Hardwood dust can cause cancer, particularly of the nose, and settled dust contains fine particles which when inhaled can damage the lungs. Wood dust can also contain harmful bacteria as well as fungal and moss spores which can be hazardous to health.
According to the HSE's 2018 end of year report on ill health in construction, recent studies show that the rate of mesothelioma (a type of cancer that develops in the lining that covers the outer surface of the body's organs) amongst carpenters and joiners is 17% higher than evidenced in other trades. Woodworkers are also more than twice as likely to suffer from skin disorders such as contact dermatitis, and chronic nasal conditions such as rhinitis.
Given the potential threats to health of wood dust exposure, both hardwood and softwood dusts have a Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) of 5mg/m3 which must not be exceeded. These are limits placed on the amount of dust in the air, averaged over an eight-hour working day.
The HSE has recently published new guidance 'essentials' to help employers and self-employed wood-workers comply with the 2002 Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH). This handy series of advice sheets has been designed to enable those within the woodworking industry to protect workers' health from the hazards of wood dust.
The 'Woodworking [WD]' series aims to,
"describe good practice for controlling exposure to wood dust in the woodworking industry. The sheets cover the key points [needed] to reduce exposure to an adequate level...[and the] measures [required] to comply with workplace exposure limits (WELs)." [HSE, WD0, 2019]
Included within the range is an 'advice for managers' sheet, to help employers and supervisors assess and control the health risks caused by wood dust exposure, plus a number of wood-workers' guidance sheets that cover the different hazards, procedures and control measures they should consider when operating a variety of woodworking tools (e.g. saws, moulders, routers, and sanders).
As part of this series, the HSE has also produced 'health surveillance' guidance that relates to the conditions of occupational asthma and dermatitis, and it shares information and good practice about the different types of RPE and engineering controls that should be used to mitigate against harmful wood dust exposure.
Controlling the risk with dust extraction
RVT's comprehensive Dustex range offers a wide variety of highly effective dust control solutions to protect workers' health and ensure compliance with COSHH and other HSE guidelines. Each is engineered to eliminate and control the presence of all kinds of airborne contaminants.
Specifically designed to reduce the hazard of wood dust is our Dustex DustoMat 10 (pictured). A high performance 110v mobile wood dust extraction/filtration unit, its fine filtration capacity and patented tiltable filter mechanism makes safe dust disposal easy. It is ideally suited to environments such as joinery workshops, and is highly effective when used at wood cutting stations, and for high volume floor vacuum applications.
Click here to see our full Dustex product range
Visit this page to find out more about the HSE's new woodworking essentials guidance
Health surveillance, monitoring and sampling sheets are available here