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Evidence on occupational exposure to wood dusts

wood sawing dust

The Challenge

There is a significant burden of serious respiratory disease associated with wood dust exposures in British industry. This disease is largely preventable through the adoption of good exposure control practice. HSE scientists aimed to provide a clearer understanding of how well dust exposure is being controlled in high-risk industrial sectors.

The Solution

HSE's occupational hygienists visited 22 woodworking companies in the manufacturing sector, the majority of which were small- and medium-sized enterprises, to assess dust exposures and the associated control strategies. Data from these visits was combined with information from HSE's extensive library of occupational hygiene reports to provide further insights. This included a focus on cleaning activities, which are known to make a significant contribution to overall exposures.

Airborne dust present during construction activities comes from a range of different sources. A new analytical method was developed to provide a better understanding of wood dust exposures in the construction industry, where it is only one component of the total airborne dust. Information from this new method has provided valuable evidence supporting our understanding of wood dust exposures in the construction sector.

The Outcome

This work has delivered:

  • information allowing HSE to conduct an evidence-based assessment of the impact of a new, reduced wood dust workplace exposure limit
  • exposure control benchmarks to underpin inspection activities
  • a new analytical assay which will facilitate a clearer understanding of respiratory exposure globally in the construction sector.

For more information see our Complete Worker Health pages.

This case study was featured on page 28 of the HSE Annual Science Review 2020.

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