We’ve monitored for soft and hardwood dust exposures for over 20 years now, carrying out dust monitoring in various workshops and factories across the country. We think its unlikely you’ll be aware that hardwood dust levels will be reduced in line with a European Directive (the EU Carcinogen and Mutagens Directive (2017/2398). In compliance with the EU Directive, the limit in Great Britain is proposed to fall from the current level of 5 mg/m3 (as an 8-hour time-weighted average or TWA) for hardwood dust to 3 mg/m3 in 2020 and then to 2 mg/m3 in 2023. (Note: this is applicable to hardwood rather than softwood dust but where exposures are mixed, as is common in the industry, then the lower limit will apply).
Note: for any clients who are affected by this change please speak directly to Roger Hart on 01453 800100 to discuss the requirements, similarly, if you’re a new client and need some support please either call or request a callback
HSE is currently inviting feedback from all those who may be affected by this change. They’d like to find out more about any additional actions you feel will be necessary to enable compliance with the new exposure standards. These could be changes to your processes or improvements to your existing controls and the associated costs plus any expected health benefits. We’d recommend that you make your views heard and if you’d like to do so just follow the link below. The process should take no more than 15 minutes;
HSE Survey: Workplace exposure limit for hardwood dust to be reduced – how will it affect you? (Survey closes on Friday 20th July 2018)
You might ask why this is happening and the background is that it’s linked to two aspects. Firstly to address the fact that some hardwood dusts are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Take a look at HSE Document WIS 30 for more information on this aspect. Secondly, Europe needs to bring member states into line with each other in order to address the wider issue of carcinogens and mutagens, hence the link to the directive cited in the opening paragraph. In total 17 European member states will have to lower their current exposure limits for hardwood dust including Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania. Interestingly, Denmark and France already limit hardwood dust exposure to 1mg/m3, while in the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden it is currently 2mg/m3.
Is there a justifiable need to change the hardwood dust limit?
In short, we think the answer is yes. It’s been estimated that hardwood dust exposure affects more than 350,000 workers in the UK and around 3.3 million EU workers overall working in construction, forestry and furniture making. Exposure can cause sinonasal cancer, asthma and dermatitis. With work-related cancer being the largest cause of work-related fatalities across the EU, accounting for 53% of all work-related deaths – around 102,000 people every year.
It’s not just hardwood dust, RCS (respirable crystalline silica) will also be affected
The commission also proposes a 0.1mg/m3 limit on respirable crystalline silica (RCS). Affecting approximately 5.3 million EU workers, around 500,000 of which are in the UK, RCS is present in construction, mining, gas and electricity industries and causes lung cancer and silicosis.
This time the UK would not be affected by the proposed change as our WEL (Workplace Exposure Limit) is already 0.1mg/m3. Most affected would be Cyprus, Greece and Poland, whose OELs for RCS presently stand at 1mg/m3.