Furniture maker told to stop sweeping floor with a broom by concerned health and safety bosses

Jessica Carpani
Furniture maker told to stop sweeping up wood dust from his factory floor with a broom by concerned health and safety bosses - Hero Images

A furniture maker has been advised that he should put down his broom in favour of an industrial vacuum by concerned health and safety bosses.

Michael Northcroft, 63, said he was encouraged to no longer sweep the floor of his factory as it could cause serious harm to his 10 workers.

Mr Northcroft, whose furniture is used by a variety of celebrities, was told by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that the sweeping of sawdust exposed his employees 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.

"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."

He added: “They have a nonsense video on their website showing someone using a huge yard broom with stiff bristles to sweep up a massive pile of sawdust.

“The bristles are too long and they’re lifting the broom off the floor, kicking up dust.

“Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows brooms should be pushed and kept on the floor. Use a nice short one with soft bristles — just like mine." 

Credit: AJ_Watt

Mr Northcroft explained that this posed less of a risk than using commercial vacuums, which means "power cables will be running everywhere".

Work-related lung disease accounts for 12,000 deaths per year and exposure to high levels of wood dust is one of the direct causes of occupational asthma and nasal cancer in the woodworking industry, 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.

The businessman was also charged a Fee For Intervention of £154 an hour for the two-hour inspection of his factory earlier this month due to a “material breach of health and safety law”.

A statement from the Health and Safety Executive said: "HSE has not banned the use of broomsticks in the workplace. We've advised this employer on how to better protect his workers' health, such as improving his vacuum filters to significantly reduce dust exposure.”

They added that they were encouraging companies to use one of the many safer and more efficient types of equipment such as installing suction pipes that use existing dust extraction to vacuum up dust or filtered industrial vacuums.