Any airborne contaminants are a cause for concern, but one of the main offenders in the dust world is wood dust.
Workplace dust is unavoidable on-site. Whether your cutting, sawing, sanding, or drilling, many day-to-day tasks produce both fine and large dust particles which, when inhaled, can be harmful to your body.
What’s the damage?
Our bodies are able to filter out any large particles that may enter our respiratory system, however the smaller particles can go deep into our lungs which overtime can lead to damage and scarring of lung tissue.
This damage reduces the lungs ability to take in oxygen, which means over a period of time, it’s going to make it harder to breathe and can cause problems such as asthma and lung cancer. It’s not just the wood that’s the issue either… glue, resin and other treatments on the wood are also harmful and increase the risk even more.
As well as our breathing, dust can also cause issues with our eyes, causing irritation and damage, and our skin, which can lead to irritation and dermatitis.
That’s why it’s important that you cover your bases, which we’ve outlined below.
Controlling wood dust in the workplace
- If you can, buy pre-cut or processed wood materials
- Use a Local exhaust ventilation (LEV) system to capture dust at the source. You can use these when cutting, shaping and sanding wood either by hand or machine
- Use on-tool extraction on saws and grinders
- Dampen down your working area with water to stop dust from becoming airborne.
- Use a HEPA filtered vacuum to pick up dust, do not dry sweep
- Limit the time each person spends doing dusty work
- Ensure workers wear respiratory protection equipment (RPE) and other personal protection equipment (PPE) suitable for the task.
- Advise workers to remove work clothing such as overalls at the end of the task or shift
- Provide washing facilities at work so dust is not taken home.
- Advise workers to wash their face and hands immediately after finishing the task and before eating, drinking or smoking.
Education is key when it comes to making sure your workers understand the risks of wood dust. To ensure you and your team are up to speed, we recommend regular training, which can be done at your weekly toolbox talks.
- Outline the health risks from exposure to wood dust
- Discuss safe work methods for when wood dust is created
- How to use and maintain LEV systems
- The correct use and care of PPE, including protective clothing and RPE