The Dangers of Wood Dust Exposure

Engaged Expert Parmjit Gahir

By Engaged Expert

Parmjit Gahir

More content from this author

Learn about our Engaged Experts

Parmjit or Parm to his friends (Head of Occupational Hygiene at Element) is an occupational hygienist with almost 30 years of national and international operational experience gained across diverse industry sectors.

Health & Safety Executive (HSE) Inspectors will be targeting woodworking businesses across the UK to ensure Duty Holders have effective controls in place to keep workers safe from the harmful effects of workplace wood dust exposure and protect their respiratory health.

HM Inspectors will be inspecting premises to ensure that:

  • effective control measures are in place to protect workers’ respiratory health,
  • employers have considered and assessed the health risk of workers’ exposure to wood dust, 
  • workers understand that exposure to wood dusts can damage their respiratory health.

Employers have a legal duty to ensure they comply with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), as amended, to prevent exposure to wood dust or where necessary have in place adequate control measures.

Every year in the UK, around 12,000 people die from lung diseases linked to past exposure to hazardous substances at work. This includes inhalation of wood dust that can cause Occupational Asthma and, in the case of hardwood dusts, can cause cancer

Exposure Limits

Both hardwood and softwood dusts have a Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) which must not be exceeded: 

  • Hardwood dust – 3 mg/m3 (based on an 8-hour time-weighted average). 
  • Softwood dust – 5 mg/m3 (based on an 8-hour time-weighted average). 

For mixtures of hardwood and softwood dusts the WEL for hardwood dust of 3 mg/m3 applies to all wood dusts present in that mixture.

Adequate control of wood dust is achieved when: 

  • The eight principles of good control practice are applied as set out in Schedule 2A of COSHH; 
  • Exposure is below the relevant WEL; and 
  • Exposure is reduced to a level that is As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP). 

Dust extraction (also known as Local Exhaust Ventilation or LEVshould be provided where the risk assessment identifies that there is a potential for exposure to wood dust. 

The Element Advantage

Element has a dedicated team of 15 Occupational Hygienists qualified by the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) spread across our network of 10 offices. Working to the specific needs of our clients, we can help by providing a solutions-led approach that consists of designing bespoke studies which will include measurement of exposure to harmful substances, detailed observations of working practices, and consideration of use and effectiveness of control measures in place. 
A comprehensive technical report will be provided which will clearly set out the methods employed, an evaluation of sampling data to Workplace Exposure Limits, with clear conclusions on health risk and prioritized recommendations for any improvements that may be necessary. 

Our ethical Occupational Hygiene team will support you from the design of the survey through to the delivery and presentation of the report. 

Contact us today for more information.


Find related Resources

Our team of over 9,000 Engaged Experts in North America, Europe, The Middle East, Australia, Asia and Africa are ready to help you.