New woodworking Health & Safety Group kicks off with a focus on occupation health

17 November 2017

The first BWF Health and Safety Group meeting took place on 31st October with the purpose of the discussing the health & safety issues joinery companies experience and to develop the support that the BWF can offer.

Feedback from members attending was that they found the event “very informative” and useful for their businesses and so this meeting will now become a regular event.


A ‘higher risk’ sector

Woodworking is regarded as a ‘higher risk’ sector, and work related ill-health is a priority for the HSE which has just released its latest statistics for 2016/17. These highlight that 1.3 million people in the UK are suffering from a work-related ill health and it is estimated that 12,000 deaths each year are linked to past exposure at work, primarily to dust or chemicals, including isocyanates found in PU (polyurethane) finishes. BWF members are also reminded that there are new rules coming in which are set to tighten the net around the handling of wood dust.

HSE found that Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) effect 507,000 people with 159,000 new cases reported in 2016/17. Manual handling, awkward or tiring positions are estimated to be the main cause of MSD’s. Most workplace injuries are due to slips, trips and falls or manual handling (approx. 51% combined). This result was mirrored in the BWF health and safety survey carried out earlier this year and highlights the need for full assessments of manual handling and correct training. Here you can download the full HSE report.

Employees are reportedly 100 times more likely to die from an occupational disease than from an accident and the above all adds weight to the HSE’s focus in the past quarter with visits to joinery companies concentrating on Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) and occupational health (OH) monitoring.

The BWF Health & Safety Hero Campaign has a ‘Target of Zero’ in its approach to reduce incidents, fatal injuries and occupational ill health within the woodworking industry. This involves 100% commitment from the entire trade and all members are now required to sign the pledge and work towards this goal. The pledge can be downloaded from the BWF web site.


What BWF has been doing to improve Health & Safety in your joinery business

The Health & Safety Group gave BWF a great opportunity to showcase some of its current work and hear from a number of guest speakers on relevant health and safety matters.

To help members improve, the BWF are committed to provide training and education for members and to improve guidance. Current work being undertaken includes

• Updating and revising the BWF Health and Safety Manual with links to resources, videos and e-learning

• A health and safety assessment tool which members can use to audit their business and identify areas for improvement.

• Developing a set of toolbox talks specific for the joinery industry

• Updating COSHH assessment forms and review of the risk assessment forms.

• Signposting members to available funding for courses, including health and safety

Carrying on with the theme of Occupational Health (OH), guest speaker Margaret Grahamslaw presented B&CE’s plan to simplify the assessment and surveillance process. The BWF has entered into an agreement with ELAS where mobile units can visit members premises and carry out occupational health monitoring tests including lung function, audiometric tests, skin disease and hand arm vibration (HAV), all at a discounted rate. For more information contact Jon Gorf at the BWF on jon.gorf@bwf.org.uk

Frank Angear of the BSiF (British Safety Industry Federation) explained the importance of purchasing safety and health products from capable suppliers. Members were advised to look for BSiF schemes including ‘Clean Air, Take Care’, ‘BSIF Registered Safety Supplier Scheme’ and ‘Fit2Fit Face Fit Testing’. The legal requirements of face fit testing of dust masks was discussed and common faults such as incorrect mask for the work intended and employees using RPE with facial hair. The HSE Approved Code of Practice states that fit testing should be carried out by a competent person. If members need help or advice with this then they should again contact the BWF for advice.

Tim Johnson of the Health & Safety Executive presented the HSE’s approach to how it is engaging with the wood industry through its work with the Wood Safety Group (WSG), which the BWF is represented at. Again, much emphasis is being placed on OH and looking at how companies can measure their results and feed this back to the HSE.

All the presentations are scheduled to be made available to members for download along with a set of minutes from the BWF web site.

You are welcome to join the H&S group and if you would like any further information on this or any of the above then please contact Jon Gorf on jon.gorf@bwf.org.uk


Our resources


BWF members can access comprehensive support from the BWF ‘Toolkit’, which includes our Health & Safety member helpline and publications on what the inspectors are looking for including HSE Field Operations Directorate Guidance for proactive inspections, and the Health and Safety essentials checklist. These two  briefing notes are available through the website by logging in as a BWF member.

There is also free-to-members guidance on Health & Safety in the woodworking industry and documents such as Machine Safety Cards, sample inspection forms, and sample risk assessments. Here you can find out why imprisonment and huge fines are now on the table for joinery workers and businesses flouting Health & Safety law.

Additionally you may wish to undertake a Health & Safety Audit that will not only suggest where your health and safety needs to be improved, but also how to achieve it. The BWF has negotiated exclusive rates with experienced Health & Safety advisors for a simple value for money package.

Last but not least, pledge your support to the BWF Health & Safety Hero Campaign, where we have put together some excellent resources to help your business tackle problem areas such as wood dust, machine training, noise, manual and handling. All of which may help in avoiding potential costs of FFI and perhaps more importantly ensure the health and welfare of all employed in your joinery business!

The British Woodworking Federation is the trade association for the woodworking and joinery manufacturing industry in the UK. Thinking of becoming part of it? Use this quick response form to provide us with some contact details. We will send you an email to confirm your interest and then one of our experienced membership team will be in touch to complete the membership process.

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