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EXPOSURE TO WOOD DUSTS
Harmful dusts and fibres are released when processing hardwoods, softwoods or MDF. These hazardous particles can cause serious health issues if not correctly controlled. Dust extraction systems 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 wood dust can cause a verity of health complications ranging from skin conditions, 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 a 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 and 8 hour period. Tests can be carried out to calculate an operators 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.
HOW TO CONTROL EXPOSURE
LEV systems are the best way of controlling exposure to wood dusts. Correctly placed hoods remove the dust at source before it has chance to reach the operators breathing space. Your extraction system should be designed to handle the correct airflow for each machine. It should also be tested regularly to ensure that the capture at each point is effective.
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 extraction system could be used.
Extraction solutions can provide ideas and solutions to overcome any dust related problems. With years of experience in the wood industry, our engineers have seen it all.
HOW TO ASSESS RISKS
When dealing with harmful substances a risk assessment should be completed. We have put together an example on how you can evaluate your processes.
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