Do you know the risks related to sanding?
To reduce risks in when sanding, it is necessary to identify and understand the potential hazards. Learn more about risk management from our free whitepaper about how to manage the occupational risks associated with sanding.Download your free copy here
Who is affected by sanding-related risks?
Sanding-Related Risks a Hazard for Many
Clearly, the worker doing the sanding and those nearby will be most immediately affected by hazards such as noise and dust. If the risks are not reduced or minimized, they can have direct personal effects on workers and their families, and a wider effect on project success and company profits.
For small company owners with only a few employees, the impact caused by injury of this nature happening to just one employee can have a significant impact. In larger companies, the manager, the company, the shareholder, and even the wider community have a vested interest in the wellbeing of the worker.
One of the oldest workplace hazards
Dust is the most obvious hazard that comes when considering sanding. There are three main types of construction dust:
- Silica dust – created when working on silica containing materials (also known as respirable crystalline silica or RCS)
- Wood dust – created when working on softwood, hardwood and wood-based products like MDF and plywood
- Other “general” dust – created when working on other materials containing very little or no silica. The most common include gypsum (e.g., in plasterboard), limestone, marble and dolomite.
Carpenters and joiners in the UK are four times more likely than other workers to develop asthma due to the wood dust hazard that accompanies their work.
How to Manage the Occupational Risks Associated with Sanding
Long exposure to noise can lead to long-term irreparable damage. It is perhaps less well known that the first measure employers must take is not simply to issue hearing protectors to their workers.
Often the wood dust concentrations can be reduced by small changes, and the implementation of expensive large exhaust ventilation systems are not needed. The examples of small changes could be changes in cleaning methods and minimising the use of compressed air blowing, modifications in hoods so that dust can be collected more effectively to the exhaust ducts, and the exposure time can be reduced by circulating work tasks during the day. Of course, the dust control systems like the products of Mirka are useful and cost-effective in sanding operations.
Chief Specialist, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health
When sanding with a hand-held power tool
Regular exposure to vibration can lead to two types of permanent ill health: carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).
The symptoms and effects of CTS can include tingling, numbness, pain, and weakness in the hands. CTS can affect the ability to carry out work safely and to do everyday tasks.
Early signs of HAVS include:
- Tingling and numbness in the fingers.
- Lack of feeling in the fingers.
- Loss of strength in the hands.
- “Vibration white finger”: in cold and wet conditions the tips of the fingers go white, then red, and are painful.
Vibration from portable sanders increases the risk of of musculoskeletal disorders
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are an ill-understood “pandemic” and they are defined as ”any affliction of the musculoskeletal system that appears at work and causes discomfort, difficulty or pain when performing work”.
The term covers a wide range of issues that are caused by many factors – not just the movements of the body required by the work tasks undertaken. The causes include the mechanical ones such as force, load, movement, and vibration, but also organisational arrangements that result in increased casualisation of work (e.g., speed, just-in-time, lean production), and psychosocial factors such as culture and organisational relationships.
As an example, the furniture industry is characterised by numerous manual tasks often requiring awkward posture, repetitive movement, and undue force, which along with vibration are all risk factors of interest.
What are the benefits to reduce or minimize sanding-related risks?
Less Down-Time and Healthier Workers
Eliminating or reducing the risks from sanding-related hazards means less downtime due to injury and recovery. For the small company owner, that could be the difference between three people working on a job and two working on that same job, trying to get it completed in time without their most experienced colleague to help them.
On a larger scale, healthier and more productive employees make work easier for their supervisors and employers. In larger companies, this translates to a happier workforce, a more profitable company, and happy shareholders.
Familiarize yourself with our free whitepaper to learn more about how to eliminate or reduce saniding related risks.
Get Your Free Copy of Our Whitepaper
In this whitepaper, we consider the hazards associated with the task of sanding and the harms that can result from prolonged exposure to those hazards.
We go into the deep and explore:
- What is sanding and why is it a necessary process?
- Sanding-related hazards, such as dust, noise, and hand-arm vibration
- Best-practice solutions for sanding-related activities