Recycling company fined for excess wood dust exposure

  • Health & Safety
dust exposure
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

A wood recycling company has been fined for exposing their workers to long-term health risks from excess exposure to wood dust.

Esken Renewables Limited, a waste and recycling company based in Middleborough, specialises in generating biofuel from renewable waste. They processed mixed wood waste, hardwood and softwood into biofuel.

Wood dust is a known health risk– inhaling it in excess can be extremely harmful and even fatal. Softwood wood dust is an asthmagen, triggering asthma. Hardwood particles are a Group I carcinogen, causing nasal cancer and in some cases, lung cancer.

Concerns about the level of wood dust and its spread in the surrounding area had been raised to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). A HSE inspector visited their Port Clarence Road site in April 2022 to investigate, and wrote in detail to the company to demonstrate the evidence they had uncovered of wood dust exposure to staff.

The company responded in some considerable detail, explaining the extent of exposures to the surrounding areas was attributed to four storms in quick succession.

Control of the wood dust to protect employees working on and around site was inadequate, according to the HSE. They found that the company had failed to design and operate processes and activities to minimise emission, release and spread of wood dust.

Common solutions for controlling dust are local exhaust ventilation, the enclosure of machinery, or the designing of the processes, such as using vacuum systems as opposed to compressed air for cleaning and maintenance.

Esken Renewables Limited pleaded guilty of breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002. They were fined £160,000 and ordered to pay £5,310.35 in costs at Teesside Magistrates’ Court on 23 May 2024.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Matthew Dundas said:

“The expected standard is to control exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable. We hope this serves to raise industry awareness for the expectation of control of hazardous substances, namely wood dust, in the wood waste and recycling industry.”

Visit BrAInbox today where you can find answers to questions like How do I train my employees working with dust?

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