Keeping Woodworkers and their Workplaces Healthy and Compliant

The woodworking sector, comprised of professions that include carpenters, cabinet makers, craft woodworking artists and many more, plays an important role in our society. If you work in this industry, there are a host of potential health risks that stem from exposure to hazardous airborne substances. These include rare forms of nasal cancer, as well as asthma which impacts thousands of woodworkers each year.

In 2022/23, the HSE carried out more than 1,000 woodworking inspections and found that 78% of businesses were not compliant in protecting workers from hazardous airborne substances.

To reduce risk, regulatory authorities have established specific regulations concerning Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) systems to protect the well-being of woodworkers and ensure a safe working environment.

These systems play a crucial role in controlling and removing hazardous substances generated during woodworking activities, as outlined in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002.

This article explores the importance COSHH plays for woodworkers and highlights essential measures to help you make sure your workplace is a safe and compliant one.


LEV Regulations for Woodworkers

In the woodworking sector, COSHH places legal obligations on employers to implement and maintain effective LEV systems. However,  if this is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risk of exposure of hazardous substances for your team.

There are a whole host of hazardous substances that can impact the long-term health and well-being of woodworkers, with just some of these including:

  • Hardwood and softwood dust
  • Dust from plywood, timber, laminates, hardboard
  • Adhesives, paints, varnishes, stripping fluids, stains
  • Lubricants
  • Disinfectants to treat water systems

All of these substances can cause long-term harm to workers.

Woodworking processes, such as sawing, sanding, and shaping wood, can release fine wood dust particles into the air. Inhalation of these particles over time can lead to respiratory problems and other health complications. Woodworkers and carpenters are four times more likely to develop asthma as a result of their workplace than any other profession in the UK.

This is why properly designed LEV systems are crucial when keeping people safe. Woodworking dust extraction systems are designed to capture and remove dust, fumes, and other airborne contaminants at the source, mitigating the risk of inhalation and long-term health issues.

To ensure your team are healthy and safe, it’s important to make sure your woodworking business is working in compliance with COSHH and has LEV systems implemented where necessary.


How you can stay compliant

The HSE has identified several key points to help businesses keep their people safe and site compliant with COSHH. These include:

  • Choosing effective and reliable control measures to implement alongside your local exhaust ventilation system
  • Ensuring these measures are used properly by instructing, providing training, and supervising your people at work
  • Regularly checking and reviewing your control measures to make sure they’re still working effectively

Workplace Exposure Limit

Where substances have been classified as carcinogens, mutagens, or asthmagens – like wood dust – to make sure your site is fully compliant with COSHH, exposure must be controlled to as low as is reasonably practicable (ALARP).

This is why workplace exposure limits (WELs) were created. Used as exposure limits and approved by the HSE, they help to protect workers’ health. For more information on these, click here.


Benefits of a Compliant LEV System:

By working with the BES Group, we can help to:

  • Reduce risk and create a safer workplace for you and your team
  • Promote a sustainable and productive industry
  • Reduce equipment downtime
  • Ensure legal compliance
  • Reduce staff sickness
  • Enhance overall productivity

However, aside from the benefits, having a well-maintained LEV system isn’t just a nice to have – it’s your legal responsibility. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations place strict duties on employers when it comes to worker safety, and the penalties for being found in breach can range from unlimited fines to imprisonment.


The BES Group Solution

Woodworkers are crucial to the UK trade industry, which is why the importance of health and safety in the workplace shouldn’t be taken for granted. By working with experts in COSHH and LEV systems, like Vulcan Inspection Services, we can help to ensure the long-term well-being of you and your employees.

We’re proud to be a UKAS-accredited provider of LEV inspections. Each of our 500 engineer surveyors is qualified to the highest industry standards, including the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) qualification. This means they’re well-equipped to support you and your business with your site requirements, keeping you in line with COSHH, and making sure your LEV systems are robust, operational, and compliant to help keep your workers safe.

Get in touch with a member of the team today to discuss your requirements, by filling out our form below.

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