Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Chemicals and pesticides

Safe work and handling

Minimise the risks of working with treated timber.

tradesman holding treated timber

Minimise the risks of working with treated timber

Treated timber chemicals can potentially be a danger to you, your family, or the environment if they contaminate the soil and are left to accumulate.


Do your research and choose the right treated timber for the job – preferably arsenic-free.

Make sure you have the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) to work with treated timber. You should use a mask, gloves and goggles.

For more information see Personal protective equipment.  

Cover any recent cuts or abrasions to avoid exposure to treated timber or treated timber sawdust.

Make sure you have the right screws, nails, bolts, brackets or other fastening hardware for the job. Some timber treatments (particularly copper based treatments) can corrode steel fasteners. Fasteners in contact with preservative treated pine should be hot-dipped galvanised, monel, silicone bronze or stainless steel. Electroplated fasteners are not suitable due to early break down of the plating.


Work outside if possible.

Clean up treated timber sawdust as you go. Either damp it down or use a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter to clean it up.

Working inside

If you are working inside, use dust extraction devices if available. Hoods and hoses fitted to saws, drilling rigs and other tools use air under negative pressure to suck sawdust away.

If you are working with large amounts of treated timber make sure your dust extraction device or vacuum cleaner is fitted with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. HEPA filters capture particles down to 1 micron in size.

Dust sucked through vacuum cleaners without a HEPA filter can come out the other end of the machine and be blown back into the environment you are trying to keep dust free.

Clean up and hygiene

Clean up as you go.

Wash your hands and face thoroughly with soap and water before eating, drinking, smoking or using the toilet.


Some treated timber types need cut surfaces resealed to make sure the treatment envelope is maintained. Ask at a hardware store if you are not sure which resealant to use.

Working regularly with treated timber or treated timber chemicals?

People working with treated timber more frequently than the ocassional home or community project or who are exposed to it in their workplace need to take extra precautions to manage treated timber risks.

Read the SafeWork NSW Code of Practice for the Handling of Timber Preservative and Treated Timber.

Learn about EPA's regulation of the wood preservation industry.

Keep children and animals safe

Children and animals should be kept out of areas where treated timbers are being worked on.

If treated timber is to be used in an area where children play, eg outdoor play equipment or furtniture, choose the least toxic suitable alternative.

If you want to reduce the risk of contact with treated timbers, paint the structure with an oil-based polyurethane or paint product.

Ensure a smooth finish to the structure to prevent splinters. When smoothing takes place, use a dust extraction device if possible when working inside, or work outdoors to eliminate or reduce the risk of you or your children inhaling sawdust.


If you or your children have been in contact with treated timbers, you should always wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you can.

Children should be encouraged to not put their fingers in their mouth after contact with treated timbers.

Existing structures

If treated timber is already in place it should be handled correctly.

Sometimes it is difficult to know which timber preservation method was used. If you can't identify it, play it safe and handle it as if it is CCA.

If you want to reduce children’s contact with existing CCA treated timber, paint the timber with an oil-based paint or polyurethane product.

Line CCA vegetable garden structures with plastic.

Don’t put food in direct contact with treated timbers. Use a table cloth.

If food has been in contact with treated timbers it should be washed or thrown away.

Don’t use run-off from treated timbers for drinking water - especially CCA timbers.

Page last updated: 12 May 2016