The wood recycling industry
The Wood Recyclers Association (WRA) has calculated that almost 2.8 million tonnes (60%) of the UK’s waste wood is getting recycled. This figure, along with the number of companies involved, is expected to rise.
Controlling the risk from fires
There have been a number of serious fires that have occurred at sites involved in the storage, treatment and handling of wood and wood based products. There should therefore be adequate controls in place to prevent fires and, should a fire occur, that the risks to human health and the environment are minimised. Reducing fire risk at waste management sites has been produced to help operators and other duty holders to control these risks.
Exposure to wood dust
Wood recycling involves loading waste wood into a chipping machine by shovel or grabber then transferring the chipped wood to a screening process by shovel or conveyor. This produces high levels of wood dust and employee exposure levels can potentially be very high. There is a particular problem during the regular cleaning and maintenance of machinery that has to take place as this often involves compressed air.
HSE has commissioned a report to assess the extent of the health risk from this exposure to wood dust that provides details of the problems:
To reduce the risks to their employees’ health from exposure to wood dust, recycling companies should:
- Have a suitable COSHH assessment of their employees’ exposure to wood dust
- Control dust at source by the use of water suppression and extraction
- Ensure plant and equipment is properly maintained to control dust leaks etc
- Have high-level health surveillance in place
- Ensure employees who clean and maintain machinery are not excessively exposed to wood dust by:
- providing them with suitable respiratory protective equipment that they have been trained to use and face fitted for
- providing industrial vacuums, that are at least a class M unit, for cleaning plant and machinery, rather than using compressed air, when it is practicable to do so