Recent prosecutions - £20,000 fine for failing to control wood dust exposure 

A London-based joinery firm was fined £20,000 for exposing employees to wood dust.

In recent years, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has campaigned to raise awareness of the significant health hazards surrounding wood dust exposure, including heightened risks of occupational asthma and other serious respiratory illnesses. As part of a visit linked to the campaign, an HSE inspector found the company had failed to control wood dust in multiple ways, including allowing excessive dust levels to settle around the site.

The inspection also revealed a number of machines had been disconnected from the local exhaust ventilation (LEV) system – a critical safety measure that extracts wood dust at source during wood machining activities. A LEV system measurably reduces airborne wood dust levels, preventing workers from inhaling it. The inspector also noted no evidence that settled wood dust was being removed.

The business had received two previous enforcement notices concerning wood dust control issues over the past ten years.

The HSE inspector said: ‘This case sends out a clear message to the industry that HSE will prosecute when inspectors find serious health and safety failings, particularly when previous enforcement and advice has been provided.

‘Exposure to wood dust causes various occupational lung diseases which can significantly affect the quality of people’s lives, and in some cases result in premature death. HSE continues to target the woodworking industry and strongly urges businesses to consult its website for further information to ensure that control of exposure is managed, and their statutory duties are complied with.’

How to control wood dust at your builders merchant 

Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 (COSHH) Regulations, employers are obligated to protect workers from exposure to hazardous substances, including wood dust. 

Our recent blog shares expert insights to assess the risks and introduce appropriate safety measures across your business. Read the article here