Wood Dust: Hazards and Precautions

If business involves construction or you employee woodworkers, you are most likely very familiar with wood dust. It is the particles of wood that get scattered and float in the air as a result of using any type of tools on wood, particularly with saws. The dust is not just a nuisance, but it can also pose a hazard to your workers. Here are some things to know about the potential hazards of wood dust and precautions you should take.

Ignition of Wood Dust

The first main hazard of wood dust that you should be aware of is that it can ignite and pose a fire or explosion risk. Having a large amount of wood dust around machinery that could cause it to ignite is a major risk, and these types of fires or explosions do happen. It is typically the combination of the wood dust and certain air can mixtures that can create the explosion. It explodes the wood dust that has accumulated in different areas, such as ledges, ceilings, walls, and floors, which then causes a second explosion.

They are ignited by electrical motors that have overheated, welding sparks, discarded cigarettes, and heating systems that have not been maintained. To reduce your risk of ignition with wood dust, be very careful around these situations and employ safety precautions.

Hazards of Wood Dust

There are also a variety of health hazards as a result of working around large amounts of wood dust. Here are the hazards to be aware of:

Damage from fine wood dust. The fine wood dust is one of the most dangerous forms, because it can cause permanent, long-term damage to workers. The fine dust is nearly invisible and is almost constantly floating in the air even when a tool is no longer running. Workers can inhale these, which scar their lungs. The effect may not be noticed for a long period of time.

  1.   All forms of wood dust become an irritant for workers, such as causing rashes, runny nose, coughing, breathing issues, sneezing, or itching.

Carcinogens.  Not all wood dust can be considered a carcinogen, but some species are. There are some wood species high on the toxicity chart that cause nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a type of cancer.

  1.   Other types of woods are toxic, such as yew, which can cause severe illness to anyone that is in direct and repeated contact with the wood dust.

Tips for Reducing Hazards

Your shop should have the following safety gear and shop items any time a worker is going to be around wood or when wood dust is an issue:

Dust mask over the nose and mouth
Simple respirator
Powered respirator
Air filter
Air exhaust
Dust collector
Cyclone separator

Be sure your business and employees are also protected with a workers’ compensation insurance policy, just in case they experience illness from wood dust.