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Company fined after HSE inspection finds wood dust failures

A company has been fined after an inspection by Britain’s workplace regulator found workers were being exposed to excessive levels of wood dust.

The HSE found significant amounts of wood dust around the site and unsafe machinery, requiring Prohibition Notices to be issued.

Deposits of the dust were found in the sawmill and around most of the woodworking machines, exposing the firm’s employees to potentially harmful consequences.

HSE inspectors found that workers at Target Furniture Limited were also dry sweeping wood dust despite the company purchasing a vacuum cleaner which could take the dust particles out of the room. This further exposed them to wood dust.

A subsequent investigation found the company failed to adequately control and prevent its workers’ exposure to wood dust. They had been visited by HSE four times in six years, leading to advice and enforcement including an Improvement Notice in relation to controlling staff’s exposure to wood dust. Despite this, the firm had an inadequate extraction system on woodworking machinery that was not properly capturing wood dust and they had not provided adequate respiratory protective equipment to protect their workers from wood dust.

Target Furniture Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. The company was fined £14,700 and ordered to pay £4,869.46 in costs at Magistrates’ Court on 3 April 2024.

Dust extraction and vacuuming instead of sweeping can be some of the measures taken to control exposure to workers. Guidance on working in the woodworking industry is available and an inspection-led campaign to protect workers continues.

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