The HSE is driving home the dangers of fine dust with its current Dust Kills campaign. This month’s column from Chris Franklin, MD at Ranheat Engineering Ltd examines how the HSE are targeting dust in the workplace, and how Ranheat can help with this issue.

The repercussions for businesses that breach regulations can be severe, and indeed a Cheshire furniture manufacturer was recently prosecuted and fined £16,000 by local magistrates after failing two separate inspections by the HSE. 

To protect workers, throughout 2023/24 HSE is inspecting a variety of woodworking businesses, ensuring that woodwork is planned correctly to minimise risk, and that adequate control measures are in place to protect workers’ health. 

In 2022/23, HSE carried out more than 1,000 woodworking inspections and found 78% of businesses were not compliant in protecting workers from respiratory sensitisers (primarily hardwood, softwood and composite material’s dust). This resulted in 402 enforcement actions taken by HSE.

The main areas of concern identified by HSE were:

Dry sweeping. Avoid dry sweeping and using compressed airlines when cleaning up. Instead, use vacuum equipment that meets at least the dust class M (medium hazard) classification, or a suction hose attached to the LEV system.

Local Exhaust Ventilation. (LEV). Control wood dust at the source and prevent it spreading into the workplace, using fixed LEV. 

Face fit testing. A face ‘fit test’ is needed to ensure any tight-fitting respirator is effective for the individual worker. Facial hair or glasses tend to lift the respirator off the face and permit inward leakage of contaminated air.

Health Surveillance. Woodworking employers have a legal duty to provide health surveillance as there is a disease associated with wood dust. 

Everyone agrees that good LEV (local Exhaust Ventilation) is essential to controlling the risks to employees. A common method of dust extraction is to use the LEV system to place the dust in polythene bags. These bag-based systems still require careful handling of the bags when removed from the dust extraction system.

If you have such a bag-based system, it can be converted into an automated discharge system so bags don’t have to be handled.

Ranheat offers a range of specialist silos and storage methods that can be implemented with most dust extraction companies’ products. There are over 150 companies in the UK suppling and installing dust extraction systems, not all of them make their own filter systems. At Ranheat, we like to show we can work with all of them.

 Existing bag unit dust extraction systems can easily be converted by Ranheat to an automated discharge directly into a storage silo. 

Whichever Ranheat system you go for, or indeed any wood fired installation using waste wood, you are still legally required to obtain planning, chimney height approval and permits to enable you to legally burn wood-waste. Ranheat are on hand to give free assistance with obtaining these permits and permissions.

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