Recent prosecutions: furniture maker fined £16,000 for wood dust offences

Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 (COSHH) Regulations, employers are required to protect workers from exposure to hazardous substances, including wood dust. However, wood dust offences continue to feature in our recent prosecutions series.

Recently, a furniture company was slapped with a £16,000 fine and over £3,000 in costs for repeatedly failing to safeguard staff from wood dust hazards. The penalties followed two Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspections, with each visit revealing the same significant compliance issues. 

Despite the initial inspection resulting in six improvement notices – including requirements for extraction system examinations and employee face fit testing – identical breaches were discovered during the subsequent visit. The business received a second round of improvement notices and pleaded guilty to breaching regulations 7(1) and 9(2)(a) of COSHH in October 2023. 

Following the hearing, the HSE inspector advised: ‘Wood dust is a substance hazardous to health because it can cause serious non-reversible health problems, including asthma, dermatitis, and irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat.

‘Occupational lung disease causes the death of 12,000 people in Great Britain annually, and there are an estimated 19,000 new cases of breathing and lung problems each year, where individuals regarded their condition as being caused or made worse by work.

‘It is important to carry out statutory thorough examinations of extraction equipment and ensure face fit testing, as required by COSHH, to help prevent ill health.

‘We will not hesitate to take enforcement action when necessary to make sure workers’ health is protected.’

Prevent wood dust penalties in your business 

Wood dust is a critical target area for the HSE, and the inspections in this case formed part of their national ‘Dust Kills’ campaign aimed at woodworking businesses. 

At Opus Safety, we help employers assess staff health hazards and introduce suitable controls to mitigate risks across your workplace. Our dedicated wood dust guidance explains your key compliance issues and outlines the right steps to safeguard your team – from local exhaust ventilation to lung function testing.  

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