The European social dialogue for the wood industry plays an important role in a sector with a long tradition as part of the overall economic fabric. Wood and the occupations which have evolved around this raw material are economically significant, are in the vanguard of design, of interest from a technological viewpoint, and in this respect the woodworking sector has always been an engine of innovation – right up to the present day.
The woodworking and furniture industry currently employs about 2.9 million workers in Europe and encompasses dozens of occupations. This sector accounts for some 6% of total economic activity of the manufacturing industries and commands an annual turnover of 270 billion euro.
In the current debate on climate change, wood is gaining in popularity as a renewable raw material as well as a climate neutral contributor to economic activity and, we believe, will have a part in many innovations in the near future. It could be said that the sustainability of the raw material wood has come into its own. And we are happy about that.
However, this also brings us to the basic thinking behind the project, the findings of which are set out in this booklet. In a complex structure, sustainability can only be understood in its overall context and never in a causal sense. And the economy has always been a complex thing.
In this sense, we believe that high quality products, good working conditions, interesting jobs and also opportunities for improving skills and for development are all closely interlinked.
Against this background, as part of their European social dialogue for the wood industry, CEI-Bois, EFBWW and A. Usl7 Siena have conducted a project on minimising wood dust exposure in the different branches of the woodworking sector. The project ran for one year and the main findings are spelled out here. Besides general information about the potential effects of wood dust on health, a host of good examples are given of ways to reduce wood dust exposure, some by very simple means. In addition, and from our point of view this represents a new step in European social partner projects, the findings of two workshops, at which manufacturers and users of woodworking machinery (i.e. producers and consumers) entered into a fruitful dialogue on the problems of wood dust exposure, are documented.
We hope that all those who read this booklet will find it useful. Practical prevention is one of the key factors in improving the work environment and thereby also contributing to sustainability in the sense of protecting people's capacity to work as well as the significant contribution of wood to the economy as a whole. We shall in any case seek to continue along the path opened up by this project.