Wood Dust…Nuisance or Silent Assassin?
It’s amazing what can be created from wood…if you like design as much as I do, there is nothing better than that wonderful piece of furniture you found in the perfect color that completely matches the style you were going for. We brag about it to our friends and family, we even go so far as to say it was “beautifully crafted” and a masterpiece.
But do we actually really think about what went into making it? Would we feel the same way about that piece of furniture if we knew it played a role in giving the person who made it chronic migraines, dermatitis, or lung issues? What about cancer? Do I have your attention yet?
How bad could woodshop dust really be?
Exposure to wood dust has long been associated with a variety of adverse health effects, including dermatitis, allergic respiratory effects, mucosal and nonallergic respiratory effects, and cancer. - Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)
Some of you may be thinking, “Well, wood is all natural, could it really cause all of this?” The short, simple answer is yes...trees are toxic and wood dust is the pain culprit. Wood dust is a human carcinogen and is known to cause cancer.
Who is at risk?
So who is at risk you ask? Studies have shown that the longer you are exposed to wood dust, the greater chance you have of developing some sort of issue involving it. Some types of wood dust even sensitize you to it the longer you use it. In short, if you have a few woodworking machines in your garage, have proper dust collection, and take the necessary precautions to keep yourself safe, chances are that you will be just fine.
Wood factory or mill workers are at the highest risk of developing a debilitating sickness or worse because they are exposed to a greater magnitude of wood dust….every day.
What are companies doing about it?
Don’t go throwing away all of your wood furniture just yet….there are safety regulations and measures in place to attempt to keep factory workers as safe as possible…
The primary method of controlling wood dust is with local exhaust ventilation, which removes dust at or near its source. OSHA
However, if you’ve ever been inside a factory, you know that there is always dust…everywhere. It is important for us to be aware. As a community we need to stay on top of our factories and ensure they are not only just compliant…but that they are going above and beyond to ensure the safety of our factory workers.
What else should factories do?
Besides standard dust collection systems and employing/enforcing best practices, what else can companies do to make their factory’s work environment safer?
Automate their dust collection system. Technology has a huge impact in most workplaces in the world and factories are no different. Automatic dust collection controls are becoming a more sought out investment for manufacturing companies and it isn’t just because they give a good return.
With the help of sensors, automatic blast gates and a central controller, proper airflow can not only be delivered when and where it is needed, but also measured and reported back to upper management for monitoring. With controls that tell on themselves and let factories know exactly how their dust collection systems are performing, corrective action can take place. The facts about wood dust are real, they are harmful to our workers and cause serious conditions…so why would we not take that extra step?
Ecogate is here to help!
Author: Daniela Petrescu