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Furniture maker ‘advised’ to stop using broom in factory

Michael Norcroft has been told that sweeping sawdust is exposing his workers to a ‘substance hazardous to health’.

A furniture maker has been told that sweeping sawdust is exposing his 10 workers to ‘a substance hazardous to health’ (PA)
A furniture maker has been told that sweeping sawdust is exposing his 10 workers to ‘a substance hazardous to health’ (PA)

A furniture maker claims he has been advised by safety inspectors to stop using a broom to sweep his factory as it can cause serious harm to the health of workers.

Michael Northcroft, who says he is a furniture maker to the stars, was told by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that sweeping sawdust was exposing his 10 workers to “a substance hazardous to health, namely airborne wood dust”.

The defiant 63-year-old called the advice “a load of rubbish” and said he plans to continue to sweep his factory in Leyton, east London, as opposed to using an industrial vacuum.

I’ve been managing factories for over 40 years and never have I come across such a joke Michael Northcroft

“It’s a load of rubbish. My message to the health and safety executives is ‘Sorry, I’m not doing it. The broom stays’,” he said in an interview with the Sun.

“I’ve been managing factories for over 40 years and never have I come across such a joke.

“This isn’t something I can choose to do or not do. I’ve been told I have to ban the use of dry-sweeping and must confirm with them by a particular date that I’ve complied with their requirements.

“If I ignore these guys it will get pretty heavy — but I’m up for the fight. I’m going to pick up my broom and get back to work.”

Work-related lung disease accounts for 12,000 deaths per year, according to the HSE.

Mr Northcroft, who says his customers include Prime Minister Theresa May and singer Adele, claims a letter told him to “prohibit” dry-sweeping and to provide evidence of compliance to the executive.

Prolonged exposure to high levels of wood dust is known to be one of the direct causes of the high number of cases of occupational asthma and nasal cancer suffered by people in the woodworking industry HSE

A statement from the Health and Safety Executive said: “While it is simply not the case that HSE has banned the use of broomsticks, companies are being encouraged to use one of the many safer and more efficient types of equipment where the health of workers is better protected.

“Prolonged exposure to high levels of wood dust is known to be one of the direct causes of the high number of cases of occupational asthma and nasal cancer suffered by people in the woodworking industry.

“The use of brushes and compressed air lines for cleaning up is actively discouraged by HSE as it is known to produce extremely high exposure levels of dust often in excess of the required legal exposure limits.

“HSE inspectors encourage companies to reduce exposures when cleaning by installing suction pipes that use existing dust extraction to vacuum up dust.

“Alternatively, companies are encouraged to use correctly filtered industrial vacuums as these also minimise exposure and lower the risk of disease.

“HSE does not provide details around the circumstances of individual cases where an intervention is ongoing.”

PA

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