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August 4, 2010

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Guidance – Wouldn’t it be good to keep dust down?

The European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) and the European Confederation of Woodworking Industries have joined forces to help minimise workers’ exposure to wood dust.

A new brochure, entitled Less dust, sets out various technical solutions to reducing exposure to wood dust, which, the two organisations say, is a major health risk for the 2.9 million workers in the wood and furnishing sector in the EU. Wood dust can also cause diseases of the skin, as well as various types of cancer (in particular, those of the ethmoid and sinuses). Dust from hardwood is classified as ‘known to be carcinogenic to man’ by the World Health Organisation.

The solutions suggested in the brochure include suction systems, direct capture by woodworking machinery, and use of new types of abrasives. It contains a useful checklist for carrying out an initial evaluation of the work environment, as well as case studies and advice from safety practitioners and organisations around Europe.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) took the opportunity of the launch of the new brochure to restate its call for the inclusion of a binding occupational exposure limit for dust from soft wood in the European directive relating to the protection of workers against carcinogenic agents. While this sets an OEL value for hardwood dust (exotic woods, beech, oak, etc) it currently does not cover resinous/coniferous wood.

The ETUC, EFBWW and the ECWI feel that this binding limit value of 5 mg/m3 per eight hours worked does not offer sufficient protection and is not based on scientific observations. They are therefore calling on the European Commission to put forward an alternative value.

Less dust can be downloaded here.

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