The RIC Good Wood Guide

Woodworking Hazards

- taken from Health Hazards Manual for Artists, by Michael McCann


Woodworkers are subject to a large number of occupational health problems resulting from exposure to woods, solvents, preservatives, adhesives, noise and vibration.

Many tropical and temperate timbers can cause skin irritation and/or allergies when they are being drilled, sawn, sanded, scraped, scored, chiselled, routed, planed, lathed, etc. The dangers are especially evident when the wood processing produces sawdust ­ and just about every kind of woodworking produces some dust.

Potentially hazardous tropical species include:

South American Boxwood, Cocobolo, Ebony, African Mahogany, Mansonia, Rosewood, Walnut, Satinwood, Iroko, Teak. [to be updated]

Potentially hazardous temperate species include:

Western Red Cedar, Beech, Cork Oak, Redwood. [to be updated]

Sawdust and Disease

Health studies in the US have shown that hardwood workers have a higher than average risk of developing nasal and sinus cancers, especially adenocarcinoma. This disease only becomes evident about 40 years after first exposure. The same risks may apply for softwood workers.

Woodworkers are also in the high risk category for solvent, preservative and adhesive exposure.


Pneumatic and electric tools if not properly vibration-insulated can cause 'white fingers', which is a circulatory system disease (aka Raynaud's phenomenon). The danger of white fingers is increased if the worker's hands are chilled. Permanent disability is possible if there is repeated exposure.

Power tool-using woodworkers should take requent work breaks, have comfortable hand grips on their equipment, and ensure that conditions allow them to keep their hands warm.

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