Manufacturers who Produce Wood Dust as a Part of their Operations, to be next Focus for Inspections

In an effort to reduce serious health effects to employees who are exposed to wood dust in the workplace, the Health and Safety Executive will soon be visiting manufacturers who produce wood dust within their operations, especially those visited and found wanting in previous campaigns. If your business conducts any of the following activities in your workplace, these inspections could be happening to you;

  • Machining operations, particularly sawing, routing and turning;
  • Sanding, by machine and by hand;
  • Using compressed airlines to blow dust off furniture and other articles before spraying;
  • Hand assembly of machined or sanded components;
  • Operations involving processing composite boards, i.e. MDF;
  • The bagging of dust from dust extraction systems;
  • Housekeeping, especially if sweeping up and / or using compressed airlines – which should be avoided.

With Occupational Lung Disease being the cause of some 400,000 working days lost per year, 18,000 new cases of the disease being diagnosed a year and the death of 12,000 people a year attributed to the disease in the UK, more action needs to be taken. Examples of Occupational Lung Disease which are connected with the woodworking industry are:

  • Sino-nasal cancer caused by exposure to hard wood dusts
  • Asthma through exposure to both hard and soft wood dusts

These inspections will specifically be looking for failures in health and safety management arrangements, so it can be determined where risk control is lacking and will not only give the Inspectorate information regarding a company’s ability to administer its risk control measures effectively but will influence their thinking when considering the arrangements being considered for a significant intervention being planned for 22 / 23.

The main purpose of this later campaign is thought to be to improve the management of risk controls, thereby reducing the risk from wood dusts in the hope that a real difference will be made regarding the later health outcomes of these workers.

The Inspectors will be looking to see whether you are providing:

  • Adequate information, instruction and training, both in the first instance and as an ongoing process;
  • Preventative measures that are working and reducing the exposure to as low as is reasonably practicable; and
  • Supervision and monitoring of the arrangements in place to ensure control measures remain effective.

The business will also be required to demonstrate that:

  • Management are aware of the risks, have a plan to manage them and have conducted risk assessment(s) and taken any necessary actions to measure, and if needed, control the risk of exposure;
  • It either has the expertise to manage its own internal health and safety requirements or that it is in receipt of health and safety advice from a competent source.

Inspectors will also, during these inspections, deal with any other infractions or infringements of health and safety legislation which is seen to impact an employees or other’s safety, health and or welfare, as they deem necessary at the time.

If this alert has raised questions or you need to discuss any other health & safety related issue do not hesitate to contact your health & safety consultant or the main office for advice / assistance.