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Harmful dusts and fibres are released when processing hardwoods, softwoods or MDF. These hazardous sawdust particles can cause serious health issues if not correctly controlled. Wood dust extraction systems from Extraction Solutions are designed to remove these particles at source before they come into contact with operators. It is important for employers to carry out risk assessments to ensure their employees are working in a safe and dust free environment.

Why Is Controlling Wood Dust Necessary?

Exposure to sawdust or other wood dust can cause a variety of  health complications ranging from skin conditions to asthma and even cancer. Therefore it is important for employers to make sure that their employees are protected. Wood dusts fall under the control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) regulations and a risk assessment should be carried out to identify hazards. Controls should be implemented so that the workplace exposure limit (WEL) does not exceed the maximum for hardwoods and softwoods of 5mg/m3.

The workplace exposure limit (WEL) for hardwoods and softwoods is 5 mg/m3. This is based on the average dust content in the air over an 8 hour period. Tests can be carried out to calculate an operator’s WEL, and is based on average exposure during the work period. If the WEL exceeds the maximum 5mg/m3 then improvements or additional control measures must be put in place, such as a wood dust extraction system.

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How To Control Dust Exposure

LEV extraction systems are the best way of controlling exposure to wood dusts. Correctly placed hoods remove the wood and sawdust at the source before it has chance to reach the operators’ breathing space. Your wood dust extraction system should be designed to handle the correct airflow for each machine and should also be tested regularly to ensure that the capture at each point is effective. Extraction Solutions can create bespoke systems tailored to your specific needs.

It’s not always practical to have a local connection to an extraction system for every process. In these cases a risk assessment should be undertaken to find a solution – an example of this is could a large CNC bed. Once a cycle is complete, there is often dust left in cuts or on the table. Instead of brushing this off, which can create a dust cloud, a standalone vacuum unit or Vac connection into the wood extraction system could be used.

Extraction solutions can provide ideas and solutions to overcome any dust related problem. With years of experience in the wood industry, our engineers have seen it all.


When dealing with harmful substances a risk assessment should be completed.  We have put together an example on how you can evaluate your processes.

#1 Identify the Risks

The first part of the risk assessment should be to identify the hazards so you can deal with them effectively

#1 Identify the Risks

Look at the process and identify the potential hazards. What are the harmful dusts being emitted? Who is effected and how far reaching is the exposure?

#2 How Often is This Used

Frequency of use is important when determining how to tackle control

#2 How Often is This Used

If an operator is working in an open area for an hour each week, RPE could be used. Long term operations should be controlled using more permanent measures.

#3 Change the Process

Are there safer materials or processes that could be used?

#3 Change the Process

Try to identify if it’s possible to change the process to reduce exposure. Could a different material be used, or pre-cut/pre-finished materials, to reduce exposure?

#4 Which Controls Work

Determine if and what controls should be implemented to reduce the risk

#4 Which Controls Work

Based on the information, what controls best suit your environment? Can extraction be added? If there are no suitable controls, RPE can be considered

#5 Consider PPE/RPE

This should be the last resort when identifying control measures

#5 Consider PPE/RPE

If there are no other methods available to control the fume and the process can’t be changed, then PPE/RPE can be considered. A separate risk assessment should be undertaken


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