Recycling company fined after workers exposed to wood dust

The long-term health of workers at a wood waste recycling centre was put in danger due to excessive exposure to the dust their work created, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution has found.

Esken Renewables Limited, a waste and recycling company that specialises in generating biofuel from renewable waste, ran a wood waste recycling centre in Middlesborough that processed mixed wood waste, hardwood and softwood into biofuel.

Breathing in wood dust excessively can cause asthma and nasal cancer. In particular, dust from softwood wood dust is a known asthmagen while particles from hardwood are a known carcinogen.

The HSE investigation found that the control of wood dust to protect employees working on and around the site was not adequate and fell short of the expected benchmark.

The company had failed to design and operate processes and activities to minimise emission, release and spread of wood dust. One solution would be through the use of 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.

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