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15th February 2024

Company Director Sentenced Over Wood Dust Failures

Wood dust in a woodworking manufucaturing site

What’s Happened?

The director of a woodworking company has narrowly avoided an immediate spell in prison after he was found guilty of continually exposing his employees to harmful wood dust.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspected the firm’s manufacturing site, which identified significant failings in its measures to control employees’ exposure to wood dust. Enforcement action was taken, however, following a revisit to check on progress, the HSE Inspector identified that the company had failed to maintain the standards required, necessitating further enforcement action.

Wood Dust

The HSE has estimated that there are around 12,00 deaths per annum attributed to lung diseases which are linked to exposure to hazardous substances – which includes both hardwood and softwood.

All wood dust can cause serious health problems such as asthma, with hardwood dust being linked to nasal cancer. The risks are present in woodworking workshops and factories.

Wood dust can cause serious and often irreversible health problems, including sino-nasal cancer, asthma and dermatitis.

The provision of dust extraction (Local Exhaust Ventilation) and measures such as vacuuming instead of dry sweeping are some of the precautions which can be taken to control exposure to workers. The HSE have undertaken routine inspection initiatives focusing on wood dust in the past where we have provided detailed guidance.

In Court

The Company Director appeared at Norwich Magistrates Court where he pleaded guilty to breaches of Sections 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He was given a four-month custodial sentence, suspended for two years. The business was also fined £40,000.

After the hearing, the HSE inspector involved in the case said:

“Exposure to wood dust can cause serious ongoing health problems and businesses must do all they can to protect their workers.

“This outcome should underline to those in the woodworking industry that the courts, and HSE, take a failure to protect the health of employees extremely seriously and will not hesitate to take action against companies that fail to do so.”

If you have any queries regarding wood dust control, COSHH assessments or air monitoring, then do not hesitate to call our health and safety adviceline today on 0300 303 5228 or email us at

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