Wood Dust - What you need to know

8th March, 2018

Author: Festool Marketing Team

The manufacturer of wood products often results in the generation of fine airborne wood particles and dust. Typical wood working activities that product dust are machining operations i.e. sawing, routing, cutting and hand or machine sanding.  

Construction carpenters are exposed to the widest range of dust, presumably because they work across a wide range of locations, from the wide outdoors to inside small walk in cupboards. 

Health Hazards

Daily exposure to dust poses a great risk to the health and safety of the employees. Reported health effects associate with exposure to dust from wood products include:
  • Skin disorders i.e. allergic dermatitis  
  • Asthma and impaired lung function 
  • Nose irritation, rhinitis (runny nose), violent sneezing, blocked nose and nose bleeds  
  • Throat irritation, and sore and watering eyes
A rare type of nasal cancer has also been reported in people who have worked with hard woods in very dusty wood-working environments with little to no dust control in place.  

Are you complying with the current Health and Safety Regulation?

Section 49 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 states that a person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure that no person at the workplace is exposed to a substance or mixture in an airborne concentration exceeds the exposure standard for the substance or mixture.  

There are three types of exposure standard:
  1. 8 hour time weighted average (TWA) - average airborne concentration of a particular substance permitted over an eight-hour working day and a 5-day working week. 
  2. Short term exposure limit (STEL) - time-weighted maximum average airborne concentration of a particular substance permitted over a 15 minute period. *A STEL should not be exceeded at any time during a working day even if TWA average is within the TWA exposure standard.  
  3. Peak limitation -  a maximum or peak airborne concentration of a particular substance determined over the shortest analytically practicable period of time which does not exceed 15 minutes. *A Peak Limitation exposure standard must not be exceeded at any time.
Exposure standards for common dust chemicals
Chemical Name TWA (ppm) TWA (mg/m3) STEL (ppm) STEL (mg/m3)
Aluminium Oxide - 10 - -
Cellulose - 10 - -
Sillicon - 10 - -
Iron Oxide - 5 - -
Fumed Silica (respirable dust) - 2 - -
Magnesium Oxide (fume) - 10 - -
Calcium Oxide - 2 - -

The above extract is from Safe Work Australia - Workpace Exposure Standards for Airborne Contaminants.

How to keep yourself safe from the risk of health hazards?

Controls for this risk include:
  • Provide dust extraction at woodworking machines to capture and remove dust before it can spread. 
  • Using localized extraction systems on the plant to a remote extraction system 
  • Using hand tools that include a collection bag i.e. sanders and cutting equipment  
  • Outsourcing tasks where cutting and machining as required to specialize workplaces, or using personal protective equipment such as class P1 dust respirators (disposable or silicone half face respirators)
For further information visit Work Safe Victoria - A Guide to Safety in the Wood Products Manufacturing Industry

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