Work safely around wood dust
When wood is cut or sanded, it releases dust that workers can inhale.
This dust can contain “harmful substances, including chemicals used to treat or finish the wood, as well as fine particles of wood,” the Texas Department of Insurance Division of Workers’ Compensation says.
Carpentry, furniture making, lumber milling and cabinet making are some of the dust-producing jobs in which workers are at risk of:
Respiratory issues, such as allergic reactions, chronic bronchitis and even cancer.
Skin problems, including dermatitis – “a condition in which the skin can become red, itchy or dry, and blisters may develop.”
Eye injuries, which can result from workers unintentionally rubbing wood dust into their eyes. This “can irritate the eyes, causing dryness, tearing or conjunctivitis – an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the eye.”
Fires and explosions from wood dust accumulating on the woodworking machinery. “It acts as an insulator, trapping in the heat. If enough heat is formed, the wood dust will ignite. If dust is concentrated and floating in the air, the fire can cause an explosion.”
Slips and trips, from slippery floors covered in wood dust.
Reduce worker exposure to wood dust with these tips from TDI:
- Evaluate and monitor your workplace dust control measures to ensure they’re effective.
- Regularly clean and maintain ventilation systems.
- Vacuum wood dust to prevent buildup in the work area.
- Wear dust masks and other appropriate personal protective equipment, including a respirator, safety glasses and a faceshield.
- Lubricate bearings to prevent overheating, which can cause dust fires or explosions.
- Educate employees about the hazards associated with wood dust and how to safely handle it.