Improved provision of information increased knowledge about wood dust and reduced harmful working practices

Inhalation of wood dust is an occupational safety risk. More than 60% of employees in the woodworking sector have sometimes experienced exposure to wood dust in the workplace to be disturbing. A recent research project conducted by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health included an information campaign on the risks and management of wood dust. The use of compressed air for cleaning workplaces that spreads dust decreased during the project.
Tuula Liukkonen
Tuula Liukkonen
Tuula Räsänen

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health media release, 27 October 2022

In Finland, approximately 40,000 employees are exposed to wood dust in their job. Excessive exposure to wood dust can cause health hazards. This can lead to prolonged respiratory infections, which, in turn, can result in longer sickness absences. In particular, exposure to hardwood dust increases the risk of rare nasal and sinus cancers.

During the information campaign carried out as part of the project, about 70 per cent of occupational safety officers and owners of small wood companies received additional information on wood dust and regulatory changes. However, the use of compressed air for cleaning workplaces decreased. Compressed air spreads high volumes of wood dust into the breathing air.

“Reduced use of compressed air in cleaning was given special attention in the project’s information campaign,” says Tuula Liukkonen, Leading Specialist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

However, other direct effects of the information campaign on working conditions could not be clearly demonstrated.

More than 10% of employees are exposed to excessive volumes of wood dust

The measured wood dust concentrations were similar before and after the information campaign when taking into account the normal fluctuations in concentrations. The majority of the measured wood dust concentrations were below the indicative limit value of 2 mg/m3.

However, 11 per cent of the wood dust concentrations measured in the breathing zones of employees exceeded this value. This means that more than 10% of employees involved in the study were exposed to excessive volumes of wood dust. During the study, a modelling method for exposure to wood dust, which requires testing with even larger data, was developed.

“The Wood Dust Control in the Wood Industry guide was updated as part of the project to provide instructions on how to control wood dust,” says Tuula Liukkonen.

Preparedness is highlighted in safety management

Awareness and proactive action are required for safety management to be effective. In a survey related to the project, occupational safety representatives in the woodworking sector rated the level of their occupational safety management significantly lower than entrepreneurs and occupational safety officers. A similar situation was observed in the areas of induction training, information exchange and risk assessment. Co-workers play an important role in orientation to safe working practices in small and medium-sized companies.

“In order to achieve more permanent results, managers and employees need practical examples and tools for reducing wood dust and preventing exposure at the workplace,” says Senior Specialist Tuula Räsänen from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Welcome to the free webinar entitled Wood Dust – New Research Data!

For more information, please contact

  • Tuula Liukkonen, Leading Specialist, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tuula.liukkonen [at] (tuula[dot]liukkonen[at]ttl[dot]fi), +358 (0)40 556 7737
  • Tuula Räsänen, Senior Specialist, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tuula.rasanen [at] (tuula[dot]rasanen[at]ttl[dot]fi), +358 (0)40 505 4546

Learn more

Share content on social media!