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World Lung Day: A reminder of the risks to lungs

Monday 25 September marks World Lung Day, the international awareness day to help educate and promote lung health.

Breathing in wood dust can cause irreversible lung diseases. HSE inspectors continue to visit woodworking businesses across Great Britain as part of our targeted inspections programme, checking that dutyholders know the established health risks and have effective controls in place to keep workers safe and protect their respiratory health.

Wood dust can cause serious and often irreversible health problems, including sino-nasal cancer, asthma, as well as dermatitis. As wood dust is hazardous to health, employers have a legal responsibility to prevent or adequately control exposure in the workplace.

In 2022/23, HSE carried out more than 1,000 woodworking inspections and found 78% of businesses were not compliant in protecting workers from respiratory sensitisers (primarily hardwood, softwood and composite material’s dust). This resulted in 402 enforcement actions taken by HSE.

The main areas of concern identified by HSE were:

  1. Dry sweeping. Avoid dry sweeping and using compressed airlines when cleaning up as these will just create dust clouds and redistribute the dust. Use vacuum equipment that meets at least the dust class M (medium hazard) classification or a suction hose attached to the LEV system.

  2. Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV). Control wood dust at source as it is produced, and prevent it spreading into the workplace, by the use of fixed LEV. We have advice about LEV design and management in the download below.

  3. Face fit testing. Workers have varying sizes and shapes of faces, so a face ‘fit test’ is needed to ensure any tight fitting respirator is effective for the individual worker. Facial hair or glasses tend to lift the respirator off the face and permit inward leakage of contaminated air.

  4. Health Surveillance. Woodworking employers have a legal duty to provide health surveillance as there is a disease associated with wood dust.

Every employer has a duty to manage the health and safety of those they employ or those who may be affected by their undertakings. Ensure risks are assessed, and take action where it has been identified that control measures are needed.

If you require Face Fit Testing, or additional Health and Safety Training, feel free to get in contact:

01782 438813

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