The knowledge gained from the project can be used to improve risk assessment and minimisation of health risks when conducting work tasks that have a risk of wood dust exposure. It will also help those working in this industry to be more aware of and informed about health risks associated with wood dust exposure.

Health effects

The timber processing industry in Norway has over 100,000 employees, according to Statistics Norway. Around 29% of carpenters report being able to see or smell organic dust whilst performing work tasks, according to NOA, and most of this organic dust is likely wood dust.

Wood dust exposure can lead to respiratory irritation and illness, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, inflammations in the eyes and nasal lining, and both acute and chronic changes in lung function. These conditions can result in increased sick leave and exit from work. Wood dust exposure is also associated with an increased risk of nasal and sinus cancer.

Associations between wood dust exposure and increased levels of sick leave and illness in employees in the wood industry have not been investigated. Official sickness absence statistics in Norway primarily focus on the entire building and construction industry, meaning there is a need for a more detailed overview when considering wood dust specifically as an exposure.

Will study different outcomes

The Norwegian Agreement on a More Inclusive Working Life (IA Agreement) began in 2001, with the aim of reducing the level of sick leave and increasing work participation. IA companies have had access to measures and grants aimed at adjusting the workplace to prevent and reduce absence that can be related to working conditions. Possible effects of the IA Agreement on absence and exit from work in the wood industry have not previously been a focus when evaluating the IA Agreement.

STAMI, with contributions from the IA industry program for the building and construction industry, aim to describe physician-certified sick leave (over 16 calendar days, including follow-on benefits), illnesses diagnosed through the specialist health services or hospitals, and disability pension among workers employed in the timber processing industry. The focus will be both on the present situation and historical changes. We will also study associations between the abovementioned outcomes and wood dust exposure.

Project leader and project team

Project leader: Rachel Hasting

Project team: Anne Straumfors, Nils Petter Skaugset, Karina Undem, Rune Hoff, Karl-Christian Nordby

External collaborators

IA industry program for the building and construction industry, Boligprodusentenes Forening, Norske Trevarer, Labour Inspection Authority

Financial contributor

IA industry program for the building and construction industry