It is essential for employers to undertake task based CoSHH risk assessments for each work activity that exposes employees to dangerous substances and chemicals which place their health at risk.
CoSHH legislation is especially relevant to the woodworking business including those employed as joiners and cabinetmakers etc. These employees however, are likely to perform a number of tasks outside these traditional roles. Assessment will not reflect real life if strict demarcation of job content is assumed. For this reason each task should be individually CoSHH risk assessed.
Many substances used in woodworking may be hazardous to health including wood dust, resins, adhesives, stains etc. Substances can be ingested in a variety of ways. Including inhalation, ingestion and skin absorption. The major health risks are occupational asthma and dermatitis. Some of the substances used can have grave consequences on the liver, kidneys and the central nervous system.
Dust formation is a prevalent consequence of the majority of woodworking businesses. Hardwood dust exposure is particularly carcinogenic. Exposure levels need monitoring in a CoSHH risk assessment. The assessment should examine if local exhaust ventilation is performing effectively. Dust lamp techniques can efficiently highlight flaws. It would be a better option to substitute wood that may cause asthma, by using wood such as Western Red Cedar.
Portable machines like orbital sanders and circular saws also need control measures. They need suitable extraction systems too.
When risk assessing the use of organic solvents and adhesives, such as those used in lamination or furniture assembly, it would be ideal to use simple indicator tubes to judge concentration levels in the air. Vapours and mists from solvents, paints and varnishes can cause occupational asthma. They can also lead to liver and kidney damage and affect the central nervous system. Some controls to consider here are the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the use of a good ventilation system. A safer alternative is to use water-borne products.
The provision of good washing facilities and skin creams is also essential in the woodworking business. Regular contact with wood dusts, resins, solvents and paints can damage the skin. This can result in sore skin and blotches which are signs of dermatitis. The use of gloves and overalls can hinder skin contact with such substances.
Employees should be involved in the CoSHH risk assessment process. This helps to cover all tasks that are undertaken and helps ensure that control measures will be adhered to.
Safety data sheets provide vital information and should be taken into account during the assessment.