Assessing Wood Dust Exposure: Monitoring and Measurement Techniques 

20/05/2024by admin0Read: 5 minutes

Wood dust exposure is a serious concern in various industries, especially woodworking, construction, and manufacturing. It refers to the inhalation or contact with tiny particles that are released during the processing, cutting, sanding, or other activities involving wood.

In this article, we will explore the definition and types of wood dust and delve into the importance of addressing wood dust exposure.

Health Effects of Wood Dust Exposure

Exposure to wood dust can lead to cutaneous, nasal, and respiratory problems, including asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Inflammation of the nasal and sinus passageways can result in rhinitis, sinusitis, and even nasal cancer. Direct exposure to wood dust can result in allergic or irritating contact dermatitis, and long-term exposure raises the risk of lung, pharyngeal, and nasal cancer. These severe illnesses need immediate medical care and treatment.

Occupational Safety and Health Regulations and Guidelines 

NIOSH Guidelines for Wood Dust Exposure

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides comprehensive guidelines for managing wood dust exposure. These guidelines offer valuable recommendations to employers on how to assess worker exposure, control measures to reduce exposure, and guidance on appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Employer’s Responsibilities for Managing Wood Dust Exposure

Employers have a legal obligation to safeguard the health and safety of their workers. When it comes to wood dust exposure, employers are responsible for implementing control measures to minimise exposure risks. This includes implementing engineering controls, such as ventilation systems and dust collection equipment, providing appropriate respirators, and ensuring proper training and awareness programs for employees.

Employee’s Rights and Responsibilities for Protection against Wood Dust Exposure

Employees also play a crucial role in protecting themselves from wood dust exposure. They have the right to receive information and training on the hazards associated with wood dust and how to mitigate those risks. It is important for employees to follow safety protocols, properly use PPE provided by the employer, and promptly report any observed hazards or health concerns.

Workplace Exposure Limit for Wood Dust

In Australia, a threshold limit value (TLV) of 1 mg of dust per cubic metre of air has been accepted as the recommended exposure limit for hardwood dust.

Safe Work Australia’s Short-Term Exposure Limit (STEL) for softwood is 10 mg/m3 for a 15-minute period, no more than four times in any eight-hour period.

In compliance with the relevant Australian Standard AS 3640-2009, Workplace atmospheres – Method for sampling and gravimetric measurement of inhalable dust, sampling for wood dust should be performed using IOM Inhalable Dust Samplers and constant flow volumetric pumps. It is necessary to undertake sampling using the “IOM” technique for a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 8 hours.

Methods to Measure Wood Dust

We have discussed below the key methods to measure wood dust:

1) Occupational Air sampling

Use Dustrack TM II or AS 3640 to monitor wood dust in real time and produce data on inhalable wood dust exposure. To assess your existing working practices and assist you in optimising processes and extraction systems as necessary, we present a method for sampling and gravimetric assessment of inhalable dust.

2) Personal Air Sampling

A personal air sampling pump is worn during air sampling and is often worn on the belt. To determine the total amount of air sampled, the pump draws in a volume of air with a highly precise flow. A sampling head in the breathing zone, which is 30 cm or less from the nose and mouth, is linked to the pump by a tube. A filter is present in the sample head, and the filter is weighed before sampling. This should be accomplished in a reputable laboratory using a precise weighing scale that can measure amounts as little as a few milligrams.

To be able to sample the worker’s full exposure, the pump is often worn the whole shift. The filter is weighed again when the sample is finished, and the weight difference indicates the amount of dust present. The amount of air tested, and the dust concentration may be combined to determine the exposure levels, which can then be compared to permitted or advised exposure limits.

Businesses may use the applicable local technique to determine the flow rate to utilise, the sampling head to use, and the filter medium to employ. To guarantee an accurate sample is obtained, a certain degree of skill is necessary for air sampling. For instance, knowing how to handle filters, setting up the pumps, and calibrating are all crucial steps to ensure the achievement of a very accurate sample.

3) Choosing a Suitable Air Sampling Pump

Businesses should be careful to keep the following factors in mind when choosing an air sampling pump:

  1. The air sampling pump complies with ISO 13137, an international standard.
  2. The pump can handle flows up to two litres per minute, which is often where word dust sampling takes place.
  3. The worker may comfortably wear it for the entirety of the day because it is light and comfy.
  4. Because of its durability and ability to withstand hostile situations, it has a high Ingress protection (IP) rating.
  5. If the pump may be utilised in combustible environments, it is fundamentally safe.

Businesses should also purchase all the necessary tools for sampling, including the appropriate sample heads, tubes, and other attachments, as well as a flow metre to calibrate the pump.

An accurate exposure assessment and trust in the results will be made possible by personal sampling using an established methodology. But this approach can only offer an average result. So, organisations in Australia can opt for real-time instruments additionally.

4) Real-time instruments

Real-time dust metres can assist in closing any gaps in the timing of exposure.

Real-time instruments can:

  1. Conduct a walk-through survey so that trouble spots may be quickly recognised and exposed staff can be given priority as needed.
  2. Watch when exposure is happening by being in the vicinity. Are there substantial overall exposure levels that may be attributed to certain events and processes?
  3. Immediately assess the impact of process modifications and the efficacy of control mechanisms.
  4. Offer immediate findings to save time spent waiting for a laboratory to weigh a sample.
  5. Serve as a teaching aid, showing operators what they are exposed to, alerting them to the danger, and demonstrating how their action alters dust levels.

Gravimetric Analysis: Gravimetric analysis is a laboratory-based technique used to determine the mass of wood dust collected on filters during personal or area sampling. The collected samples are weighed before and after sampling, and the difference in weight represents the mass of wood dust collected. By dividing the mass by the volume of air sampled, the concentration of wood dust can be calculated.

5) Particle Size Analysis: 

Wood dust consists of particles of varying sizes, and particle size plays a significant role in determining its health effects. Particle size analysis techniques, such as cascade impactors or laser diffraction, can help determine the size distribution of wood dust particles. This information is valuable for understanding the potential for respiratory deposition and selecting appropriate respiratory protection.

6) Biological Monitoring: 

Biological monitoring involves analysing biological samples, such as urine or blood, to assess internal exposure to wood dust. Biomarkers, such as wood dust metabolites or inflammatory markers, can indicate the absorption and biological effects of wood dust exposure. Biological monitoring provides complementary information to air sampling and can help evaluate the effectiveness of control measures.

Take the help of an expert occupational hygienist for the accuracy of results and the correctness of methods used.

After monitoring your workplace and implementing a measurement technique, the professionals will create a report on the exposure level to the wood dust, which can be used as a record for future reference.

A wood dust control plan to overcome workplace hazards, implementing controls and prevention measures shall be developed by the consultants to help keep the wood dust levels in check at an organisation.

To conclude, exposure to wood dust poses serious harm to a worker’s health. To determine exposure levels or residual risk and confirm the efficacy of control measures, air sampling is a useful tool. When used in accordance with a procedure that has been authorised, personal sampling pumps can yield precise exposure levels. By enabling the identification of sources and the immediate efficacy of control actions, real-time devices can supplement this.

Anitech’s experienced Occupational Hygienists can help in your air sampling of wood dust at your workplace and provide you with necessary mitigation solutions to overcome the hazard.

Contact us today to get started at 1300 802 163 or e-mail – sales@anitechgroup.com!

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