Living in a state that’s home to prestigious furniture makers large and small, many North Carolinians are in the woodworking profession. These skilled professionals face myriad risks in their daily work. Businesses from small woodshops to large manufacturing facilities need to do everything possible to mitigate the danger for their employees.
Of course, sharp objects such as knives, saws (both hand and electric) and other equipment with blades may seem like the most obvious causes of injury. However, so are fires and explosions. There are flammable materials all around such as solvents (including solvent-based glue), thinners, lacquers and oil-soaked rags. Wood dust can also pose a variety of risks for those involved in furniture making.
The leading woodworking hazard
While wood dust is nearly invisible, it’s considered the leading hazard in workplaces where woodworking is done. Wood dust is made of wood particles and therefore is highly combustible. If it gets near an ignition source or if it builds up in corners or crevices, it can be especially dangerous.
An ignition source doesn’t have to be an open flame. It can be:
- Sparks caused by the impact of two objects
- Any “hot work” like welding, torching or grinding
- An old, damaged or defective electrical outlet
Even wood dust buildup not much thicker than a dime can result in a fire or explosion.
Breathing in wood dust can also cause a number of health issues. These include lung problems and even nasal cancer.
Mitigating the risks
Woodworking facilities should have a dust control system in place. These systems have tubes that suck up the dust. Your facility’s system should have the ability to detect a nail or other piece of metal that gets in to the system among the dust and trigger a sprinkler within the system to soak it.
Employers as well as employees also need to prioritize cleanliness and tidiness. Dust should not be allowed to accumulate anywhere – including on equipment. Ventilation systems and air ducts need to be inspected regularly. Flammable materials need to be properly stored. Proper protective gear, like goggles, is also essential.
If you’ve suffered a work-related injury or health issue, be sure that you get the workers’ compensation benefits to which you’re entitled. If you’re having difficulty with the claims process or your claim has been rejected, it may be wise to seek legal assistance.