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Safety Tips | Workplace exposure

Wood dust exposure

August 26, 2013

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Using machines to cut, smooth or shape wood materials can expose workers to wood dust. According to Oregon OSHA, wood dust is classified as a hazardous chemical because wood can contain chemical contaminants such as herbicides and pesticides, as well as naturally occurring molds and fungi. Exposure to wood dust can cause health issues that include dermatitis, respiratory reactions, asthma, eye irritation, prolonged colds and frequent headaches. Wood dust also has been linked to cancers of the sinus cavity, nasal passageway and lungs. Oregon OSHA notes that wood dust will burn if ignited; every year, facilities are damaged or destroyed due to wood-dust fires and explosions. Additionally, if not properly cleaned up from floors, wood dust can cause slips, trips and falls.

To decrease wood dust levels, Oregon OSHA recommends the following for employers and supervisors:

  • Practice good housekeeping.
  • Never use compressed air to clean up wood dust; use vacuums or sweep the dust.
  • Use exhaust ventilation to capture and remove dust.
  • Properly maintain all dust-control equipment.
  • When appropriate, use wet methods to control dust.
  • If other control methods do not reduce exposure below permissible limits, workers should use respiratory protection.
  • Provide employees with other personal protective equipment, such as gloves, overalls and eye protection.

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