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Have you assessed your workplace exposure levels for wood dust? WE WOOD recommend it!

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Carpenters and joiners are four times more likely to get asthma and other lung diseases due to working closely with wood dust on a very regular basis.

Other conditions can also develop particularly from hardwood dust such as Cancer - particularly of the nose which is why it’s very important to be aware of the workplace exposure limits and assess your workforce on a regular basis.

The WEL for hardwood dust is 3mg/m3 (based on an 8-hour time-weighted average). The WEL for softwood dust is 5mg/m3 (based on an 8-hour time-weighted average). For mixtures of hardwood and softwood dusts the WEL for hardwood dust of 3mg/m3 applies to all wood dusts present in that mixture.

These limits are created based on the amount of dust in the air, averaged over a typical eight-hour working day. However, you must reduce exposure to wood dust to as low as reasonably practicable.

Both hard and soft wood dusts act as respiratory sensitisers. A respiratory sensitiser is a substance which, when it is breathed in, can lead to occupational asthma, which is an allergic reaction in the lungs. Once a person has developed asthma (or has been 'sensitised'), any further exposure to the substance can produce the same reaction.

What you need to do

Providing dust extraction (also known as local exhaust ventilation or LEV) at woodworking machines to capture and remove dust before it can spread is imperative.

Think about the design of the extraction system, considering:

The number and type of machines to be connected to woodworking machines, the ones that are used together and the layout of the workshop or factory. This information should be supplied by the employee / team that uses it / them.

The machine manufacturer’s information or an experienced body’s information on air flow and extraction cross-sectional areas or volume flow rates (VFR) required for each extraction connection for each machine.

Educating your workforce, of the risks from wood dust and the control measures required. They should know how to use the extraction properly. Fitting air flow indicators will help, as these will show them if it the extractor is working correctly, for example if dampers are open or shut and if maintenance is required.

It will be the responsibility of the employer to keep the extraction system properly maintained and working correctly (it is a legal requirement to have it examined by a competent person at least every 14 months).

Never sweep up or use compressed air lines as this will disturb the dust and allow it to become inhaled.

Always clean up using a suitable industrial vacuum cleaner which is fitted with a HEPA filtration system.

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