Last reviewed 6 April 2022

Health and safety inspectors across Great Britain will be visiting businesses within woodworking industries such as sawmilling, manufacture of composite boards and carpentry, as well as other industries where wood dust exposure can occur.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said that it will be carrying out inspections to protect the respiratory health of workers and that ventilation, protective equipment and appropriate guarding are some of the measures businesses should consider to ameliorate the conditions.

HSE’s head of manufacturing, David Butter, said: “Around 12,000 workers died last year from lung diseases linked to past exposure from work, with thousands more cases of ill-health and working days lost.”

Woodworking industries have the potential for high incidence rates of occupational asthma and work-aggravated asthma caused by worker exposure to inadequately controlled wood dust in the workplace.

Carpenters and joiners are four times more likely to get asthma compared with other UK workers, as well as nasal cancer.

Inspectors will be looking for evidence that employers have considered the control measures required to reduce workers’ exposure to wood dust, that workers understand the risks of exposure to wood dust and effective control measures have been put in place to protect workers from harm.

The latest advice and guidance is available at https://www.hse.gov.uk/woodworking. The HSE emphasises that inspectors will take enforcement action when necessary to make sure workers are protected.

“Duty holders need to do the right thing, for example, through completing a risk assessment, ensuring workers are trained, appropriate guarding is fitted and adjusted correctly, and reducing exposure using local exhaust ventilation (LEV) and using suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to protect workers, where required,” Mr Butter concluded.