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October 13, 2021

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Occupational Health

Wood dust in manufacturing industries causing Occupational Lung Disease (OLD), HSE document finds

According to an HSE document, visits are being undertaken to wood working premises that have been targeted as part of previous campaigns, to reduce the incidence of serious health effects caused by exposure to wood dust.

Inspections will deal with the underlying causes of not sustaining good risk control (i.e. failures in health and safety management arrangements).

These include the provision of adequate information, instruction and training; supervision and adequate monitoring arrangements to ensure preventive and control measures are effective; and access to adequate, competent health and safety advice. 

The findings from these visits will be used to inform and influence planning for a significant intervention in 2022/3 aimed at improving the management of risk controls and reducing the risk from wood dust across the industry to make a real difference to workers’ lives.  

Occupational Lung Disease (OLD) causes the death of 12,000 people in GB annually. There are 18,000 new cases of OLD per year that are caused or exacerbated by work and 400,000 working days are lost per year.

Specific examples of OLD in the wood working industry include: 

  • Sino-nasal cancer from exposure to hard wood dust
  • Asthma from exposure to soft and hard wood dust. 

Inspections will cover: 

  • The specific health issue(s) through an assessment of the management arrangements for preventing and/or controlling the risk of exposure
  • Any matters of evident concern (MEC)
  • Any matters of potential major concern (MPMC). 

To read the HSE’s full guidance on controlling the risk relating to wood dust, click here. 

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