Wood manufacturers under closer scrutiny


Woodworking companies are not complying with respiratory safety standards, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

A person woodworking.

The UK watchdog is carrying out inspections from 2023 to 2024 and checking that businesses are taking necessary steps to reduce worker exposure to wood dust. 

As a whole, these inspections form part of HSE’s industry wide Dust Kills campaign, which focuses on raising standards around dust exposure, particularly wood dust and silica. 

Full scope 

Regarding specific checks, HSE inspectors will visit businesses that deal in sawmilling, manufacture of composite boards, and carpentry. 

Additionally, inspectors are looking for evidence that employers: 

  • Are considering control measures to reduce wood dust exposure. 
  • Workers understand the risks of exposure. 
  • Effective control measures are in place to protect workers from harm. 

Previously in its 2022 checks, the HSE identified four main areas of concerns: 

  • Housekeeping, including dry sweeping of wood dust. 
  • Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) maintenance and examination. 
  • Selection and face-fit testing of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE). 
  • Health surveillance for wood dust exposure. 

After more than 1,000 inspections, HSE found that 78% of businesses did not adequately protect workers from respiratory sensitisers like hardwoods, softwoods and MDF. 


HSE has found the companies with poor protection from wood dust exposure have the potential for high incidences of occupational ill-health. 

This includes risks of sino-nasal cancer, occupational asthma and dermatitis among workers. 

Around 12,000 workers died last year from lung diseases linked to past exposure from work, and there are an estimated 19,000 new cases of breathing and lung problems each year, where individuals regarded their condition as being caused or made worse by work,” said David Butter, HSE’s head of manufacturing. 

“Our inspection initiative aims to ensure employers and workers are aware of the risks associated with the activities they do.”

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