Wood Dust Safety
October 16, 2018
Wood dust is a known human carcinogen, according to the National Toxicology Program of the Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Workers in the woodworking industry, construction workers, carpenters or others whose professions involve cutting, chipping, sawing, drilling, sanding or shaping wood should take certain safety precautions to protect themselves from wood dust exposure.
Harmful Effects of Wood Dust
Wood dust can cause workers to experience eye, nose and throat irritation, allergic reactions and worsening of asthma. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) reports that exposure to natural chemicals in the wood as well as bacteria, mold or fungi can cause serious health issues. According to OSHA, exposure to wood dust also puts workers at an elevated risk of cancer of the nasal cavity, nasopharynx, larynx and paranasal sinuses as well as Hodgkin disease.
The following are some other common health issues associated with wood dust exposure:
Dermatitis/Eczema- Dermatitis, otherwise known as eczema, is inflammation of the skin that typically presents as an itchy rash and red, dry, swollen skin. This condition is not contagious and can usually be cleared up with medication or topical creams.
Occupational asthma- OSHA estimates that 11 million workers are affected by occupational asthma. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, tightness of the chest, wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.
Rhinitis- Rhinitis is inflammation of the nose, usually causing runny nose, nasal itching, nasal congestion, sneezing and post-nasal drip. Medications usually clear it up, but surgery may be necessary in certain circumstances.
Toxic chemical effects- Depending on the species of wood, workers may experience toxic effects from exposure to dust. Symptoms include headaches, weight loss, shortness of breath, cramps and irregular heartbeat.
Safety Precautions for Woodworkers
Employers should ensure that workers are informed about the dangers of wood dust exposure and how to protect themselves. The CCOHS recommends taking the following precautions:
- Identify the type of wood you are working with and the associated hazards
- Substitute harmful types of wood for ones with less or no known health effects if possible
- Reduce wood cutting or shaping activities
- Have an industrial ventilation system, including ventilation exhaust and high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filters
- Ensure that blades are sharp (dull ones cause more airborne dust)
- Keep surfaces clean and avoid reintroducing dust into the air by using wet clean-up methods and sealing up dust waste
- Train and educate workers on the hazards of wood dust and safe work procedures
- Provide workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) like respirators, gloves and clothing
- Wash hands, face and clothes when finished working with wood dust
- Avoid using compressed air to clean off surfaces
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Workers Recover Compensation for Wood Dust-Related Illnesses
If you developed an illness due to wood dust exposure at work, contact an experienced Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. You may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits including coverage for your medical bills and lost wages. To discuss your case, call us at 888-PITT-LAW or complete our online contact form to arrange a free consultation.
We represent injured workers throughout Pennsylvania, including those in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County, as well as the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester and Wynnewood.