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Max People - Risk and Impacts of Wood Dust

Are you aware of the risks and impacts of wood dust? One thing's for sure, some impacts are irreversible!

Risks to health from wood dust

Wood processing causes small particles of wood dust to become suspended in the air. Workers can inhale these particles. A person’s upper respiratory system can filter out the larger particles, but smaller particles can go deep into the lungs causing damage and scarring to the lung tissue. Each time this happens a small amount of irreversible damage occurs. This damage reduces the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen and over time makes it increasingly difficult to breathe.

The presence of glues, resins, formaldehyde and other wood treatment chemicals in some wood products increase the health risks from wood dust.

Wood dust poses the following risks to worker health:

  • Inhaling dust into the lungs can cause breathing problems and lead to lung diseases such as occupational asthma and lung cancer. Breathing in dust is the most common type of exposure to wood dust.
  • Swallowing wood dust can affect the intestines, bloodstream and vital organs and make people ill.
  • Getting dust in the eyes can cause irritation and damage.
  • Skin contact with wood dust can cause ulceration of the skin, irritation and dermatitis.

Wood dust

How to control wood dust exposure

  • Local exhaust ventilation (LEV) is one of the most effective ways to control dust at the source. Use LEV systems to capture dust from cutting, shaping and sanding wood either by hand or machine.
  • Use on-tool extraction on saws and grinders to control wood dust at source.
  • Refer to the manufacturer’s operating instructions for equipment use and maintenance. For example, use the correct saw blade or planer for the task.
  • Use water damping methods where practical.
  • Don’t use blowers, fans or compressed air to move wood dust.
  • Provide a suitable industrial vacuum to remove dust from work areas.
  • Minimise worker exposure by limiting the time each person spends doing dusty work.
  • Advise workers to wear respiratory protection equipment (RPE) when emptying vacuum cleaner bags or collection bags – there is a potential for high wood dust exposure.
  • Ensure workers wear RPE and other personal protection equipment (PPE) suitable for the task. Advise workers to remove work clothing such as overalls carefully at the end of the task or shift to avoid generating dust clouds.
  • Advise workers to wash their face and hands immediately after finishing the task and before eating, drinking or smoking.