There have been a lot of studies from all around the world looking at the hazards of wood dust in the workplace. The results are pretty conclusive that there are serious potential health risks as well as other problems associated with wood dust. Depending on what area your workplace is located in, there may be different laws covering how to handle wood dust. Let’s look at this problem a little closer right now.
When it comes to wood dust, there are generally two categories that they are broken down into. Dust from soft woods and dust from hard woods can pose different problems for the workplace to handle. On top of this, different parts of manufacturing with wood and wood finishing can produce different kinds of wood dust that also pose different kinds of problems. Soft woods are woods such as cedar and pine. Hard woods are ones such as oak, teak, mahogany, and more.
The different kinds of wood dust depend on a combination of the kind of wood and the process that the wood is undergoing. Sawing of woods produces larger wood dust particles while sanding wood produces finer particles. Soft woods generally produce larger particles. Sanding harder woods can produce the finest of wood particles that can pose some real health hazards.
The wood itself is not the only concern in the workplace. Many woods and wood products have other materials. Particle board has glues and other materials that need to be considered when looking at potential hazards in the workplace. There can be paints and other hazardous materials that need to be considered as well.
The various kinds of wood dusts can pose different health risks to workers and anyone who comes into contact with wood dust. Studies from all around the world have shown health problems from wood dust. These health problems can include nose, sinus, skin, throat, and lung conditions. These problems generally appear after years of exposure.
Allergies are one commonly associated problem related to exposure to wood dust. Asthma can also result from exposure to certain kinds of wood particles. These problems are usually related to certain kinds of woods, or woods from certain parts of the tree. Dermatitis is also linked to exposure to wood dust. Dust can irritate the skin and lead to skin problems.
The most severe health problems associated with wood dust can include cancer which can be fatal. These are commonly associated with finer particles such as from sanding. Some of these fine wood particles have shown to be carcinogens in studies in Europe and North America. Certain trades that work with wood have also shown to have higher than normal incidents of cancer.
Possibility Of Explosion In The Workplace
Another serious problem associated with wood dust in the workplace is explosion. The right amount of fine particles in the air and even a simple source of heat can lead to a catastrophic explosion. These explosions can be powerful enough to completely destroy the building killing everyone inside.
Sources of ignition can be any electric spark or even in some cases just enough heat will set it off.
Solution To Wood Dust Hazard
The best way to handle wood dust in the workplace is by using dust extraction systems designated as local exhaust ventilation (LEV). LEV generally consists of a hood of some kind to capture wood dust, duct work to form an enclosed path for the transfer of wood dust, and a way of removing or filtering the dust. Many machines come with LEV already included, but not all do.
With some machines there can be more than one source of wood dust. In these cases, it is important to make sure that each source of wood dust is covered by a LEV.
Portable wood working tools such as belt sanders often have small attached dust bags. These are often times not enough to properly filter out the finer wood dust particles. Adequate respiratory protection may be necessary in these cases.
Again, depending on your area there may be very specific laws regarding how to handle the hazards of wood dust in the workplace. Long term worker health and safety as well as the possibility of explosion make this a very important topic.
About the author:
Danny has been writing about business and HR for years and has produced many interesting articles. Recently workplace safety and health has caught his attention. He has been researching and writing mostly about dust extraction and abrasive blasting related topics.