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Calling time on dust

August 2018

A number of organisers are calling for stricter controls on the creation of dust, in particular wood dust from chip board and fibre board during the construction phases at an event. Due to the potential health problems, wood dust is covered by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH). Under COSHH, employers have a duty to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and take steps to ensure they prevent or adequately control exposure. The Provision and Use of Equipment Regulations (PUWER) requires that equipment should be used as intended which means that if fitted for dust extraction then it should be used. The g-Guide requires that dust extraction is used on power tools where appropriate and the eGuide states that ‘wood working machinery shall be used with due consideration for the effect on others nearby (noise and dust)’. Notwithstanding dust is a problem in event construction possibly because few realise the true extent of the hazard.

Dust from fibre and chip boards is carcinogenic because of the glues used in manufacture. Other effects of dust in general include asthma and other lung related conditions. The dust can also cause fires and explosion. Failing to extract dust at source means that it can collect in floor ducts around electrical cabling where it is a fire risk. It can also cause faults in smoke detection equipment. A firm in Tyneside was recently prosecuted and fined £800,000 following a wood dust explosion at its plant which fortunately did not cause injury.

This is a fairly easy risk to control. Ideally cutting and sanding should be done outside and even then HSE guidance is for dust masks to be worn. If this is not possible then it should only take place if dust is extracted at source into a dust bag or other container. Failure to comply should result in the equipment being removed from site until it is compliant. The pressure for improved practices should come from the event staff who have to suffer the effects themselves and frequently complain about it at industry forums.