According to statistics from HSE, the woodworking industry has one of the highest accident rates in manufacturing, most of which are caused by contact with moving machinery. However, serious consideration also needs to be given to occupational health, including asthma, dermatitis, nasal cancer, manual handling, noise and vibration.
The cost of poor Health & Safety
The human cost of injury is immediate and distressing, and a responsible employer’s first duty is to ensure that its employees can work safely. But beyond this, the impact on the business is considerable. HSE statistics reveal the human and financial cost of failing to address health and safety – each year:
- Millions of working days are lost due to work-related illness and injury.
- Thousands of people die from occupational diseases.
- Around a million workers self-report suffering from a work-related illness.
- Several hundred thousand workers are injured at work.
- A worker is fatally injured almost every working day.
If your workplace is in ‘material breach’ of health and safety laws, you are liable for recovery of the HSE’s costs for any inspection, investigation and enforcement action that is undertaken.
Managing Health & Safety
According to HSE, the key elements to managing woodworking safely include:
- Risk management: To reduce the chances of an accident occurring, it is best to look at what might cause one and then decide what you need to do to stop it happening.
- Training and supervision: By law, all workers must receive training and supervision that is appropriate to the equipment they will be using.
- Workplace management: Paying attention to layout, worker movement and keeping workshops and storage areas tidy can help reduce the risks.
Workers themselves should also be encouraged to become involved in health and safety as they are often the best people to understand the risks and help find solutions.
What are the rules?
This list is by no means exhaustive, but the key areas of legislation governing how employers manage health and safety in their businesses are outlined below:
- Under the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 (HSWA), employers have a general duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees.
- Employees’ also have a duty under the HSWA to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of other people who may be affected by their work.
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, requires employers to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments and introduce preventative and protective measures and health surveillance where required.
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) set out the legal requirements for protecting people in the workplace against health risks from hazardous substances, which includes harmful wood dusts and other substances.
- Under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), work equipment must not give rise to risks to health and safety regardless of its age, condition or origin. These are accompanied by an Approved Code of Practice specific to woodworking machinery: L114 Safe Use of Woodworking Machinery. Approved Code of Practice and Guidance.
- Employers must also comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, as amended by the Health and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002, which require employers to avoid, assess and reduce the risk of injury from manual handling.