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!
- Arranged at 1:30–3:00 p.m. on Monday 14 November 2022
- In the webinar, the results of the study are presented, the ways of controlling wood dust are explained and the views of the occupational safety and health authority about wood dust are heard.
- More information and registration: Wood Dust – New Research Data | Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (ttl.fi)
For more information, please contact
- Tuula Liukkonen, Leading Specialist, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, [email protected], +358 (0)40 556 7737
- Tuula Räsänen, Senior Specialist, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, [email protected], +358 (0)40 505 4546
- Wood Dust Project page (in English): Wood dust and new binding limit values – can the provision of information have an impact on exposure and working conditions? – PUUPÖLY | Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (ttl.fi)
- Wood Dust Project report (in Finnish): Puupöly ja uusi sitova raja-arvo (julkari.fi)
- Wood Dust Control guide (in Finnish): Wood Dust Control in the Wood Industry – Centre for Occupational Safety (ttk.fi)
- More information about wood dust (in Finnish): Wood dust | Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (ttl.fi)