What Can Happen If a Business Fails to Stop Wood Dust

In late April 2023, the Westminster Magistrates Court imposed a criminal conviction onto a specialist joinery business for neglecting its duties to prevent members of the workforce from being open to the risk of bodily damage from wood dust. It took the matter seriously because of the potential illnesses likely to be caused by such persons if working near such substances. The case is alarming because of the range of potentially life-ending illnesses colleagues may be at risk of contracting if they come into contact with them including:
    cancer (of the nasal cavity)
    asthma and
    skin conditions such as dermatitis. 
Due to the seriousness of the risks colleagues were left wide open to from a health perspective, the authorities made an example of the specialist joinery business by imposing a financial sanction of over twenty-thousand pounds.  

What Happened In The Case? 

The specialist joinery business appears to have received a visit from the regulatory authorities connected with its effort to catch out organizations using wood as part of its commercial working activities. The regulator was conducting this exercise due to significant concerns over the likelihood of colleagues carrying out their day-to-day duties, operating in the local area, and potentially contracting the adverse effects associated with wood dust. The HSE appears to have spotted evidence suggesting that the joinery business had fallen significantly short of the regulatory requirements.  Such issues identified by the regulatory authorities comprised large quantities of grains from the wood laying on the ground and other surfaces located in numerous places of the environment where members of the workforce carried out their day-to-day working responsibilities. Nothing suggested that the business took any action to cleanse the affected working area of the wood dust. 
The independent expert uncovered evidence suggesting that it had failed to connect the industrial equipment to the ventilation machinery also known as the local exhaust ventilation. This is normally utilized by organizations to limit wood dust from the atmosphere and which has the likelihood of being breathed in by persons recuperating in the workplace. The joinery business does not appear to have learned its lessons and had ignored regulatory warnings for one decade. 

Feet to the Fire?

In the Westminster Magistrates Court, the specialist joinery business admitted violating Regulation 7 of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 which places obligations on businesses employing staff to make sure that members of the workforce are not left wide open to matters adversely affecting their health and places duties on them to mitigate the risk of such harm by putting in measures to stop contact or restrict the likelihood of such persons accessing such substances. To make an example of the specialist joinery business the Magistrates imposed a financial sanction of over twenty-thousand pounds.  

Lessons Learned? 

Due to the potential damage which can be caused by wood dust businesses need to be considering taking the following action: 
-    remembering that contact with damaging substances can be harmful 
-    as it can cause cancers, asthma, and skin harm
-    limit the likelihood of colleagues coming into contact with wood dust 
-    complying with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002
-    adhering to the exposure limits as prescribed under the exposure limits
-    ensure a compliant ventilation system fitted with a hood is in position
-    working to extract harmful dust from the environment and
-    involve Occupational Health early. 
If you have experienced something similar, or have an opposing viewpoint, please kindly leave a comment on the article or contact us. 
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