Wood Chip Dust Claims

Dangers of Wood Chip Dust

Wood chip dust is proving as much of a potential hazard as asbestos. Although the dust particles thrown into the air during the preparation of wood can be tiny, inhaling them can cause long-term or even permanent damage to your body.

If you work in an environment where wood chip dust is often present and you are experiencing symptoms related to their inhalation, you might be able to claim compensation from your employer.

Wood Chip Dust - Illness Claims

What is wood chip dust?

Wood chip dust is composed of superfine particles produced when sawing or planing wood. Invisible to the naked eye, the particles are easily inhaled without realising it.

Why might I be exposed to wood chip dust?

You could inhale wood chip dust while you're at home busy with a DIY project. Alternatively, it could be as part of your job.

You're especially prone to hazardous exposure if you work for a firm whose business involves the preparation of wood, like a woodyard, a timber store, a DIY centre or on a building site.

If so, it's important to exercise great care, and even more crucial that your employer observes stringent health and safety procedures.

What damage can wood chip dust cause?

Inhalation of wood chip dust can cause a flu-like condition called Organic Dust Toxic Syndrome (ODTS).

After inhalation, the minute dust particles can be lodged in the lungs, causing wounds and scarring which are often irreversible. Although you might not notice any symptoms straight away, over time your lung capacity can deteriorate and you could suffer a number of other health complaints.

Wood chip dust can also act as an irritant, affecting your lungs, skin and eyes. This can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Itching
  • Sneezing
  • Nose bleeds
  • Coughing
  • Rashes
  • Runny nose
  • Breathing trouble

With certain species of wood, the more you're exposed to their dust the more severe the effects. Even if you have no immediate allergic reaction, the symptoms can get progressively worse – in the shape of boils, rashes, sinus trouble and respiratory pain – every subsequent time you inhale those particles.

What safety measures should I or my boss adopt?

Some safety measures are comparatively simple, such as always wearing a face mask when you're sawing or planing wood at home.

But what about the workplace? If your job is in a woodyard, a timber store, a DIY centre or on a building site preparing 'A' frames and other wood-based construction projects, your employer should provide you with safety equipment, such as a heavy-duty mask or a respirator.

This is especially important if you're working indoors with wood and power tools. The premises should be installed with good, working air filters and exhausts. Again, keeping the workplace safely ventilated is the responsibility of your employer.

Other safety equipment designed to protect against wood chip dust exposure include:

  • Dust collectors
  • Cyclone separators
  • Downdraft table
  • Vacuum devices attached directly to power tools

If you work with wood and you're already suffering with a cold, or anything else which affects your breathing, it's doubly wise to keep clear of the risk of wood chip dust inhalation.

Can I claim compensation for health problems due to wood chip dust exposure at work?

If you've noticed symptoms related to wood chip dust exposure in your workplace, you may be able to take legal action against your boss.

All employers are legally obligated to have public liability insurance; if you pursue a personal injury claim against yours, it's likely the insurance will cover any compensation award.

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Phillip Gower - Work Related Illness and Head Injury Solicitor - Cardiff

Phillip Gower
Partner, Industrial Disease

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