Protect staff and product quality from workplace dust

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Impact Technical Services explain how dust can affect staff health and product quality and outlines how it can be managed.

Many manufacturing processes create some type of dust, creating quality, visibility, and safety issues. From wood dust to flour dust, these airborne hazards must be controlled to improve productivity and protect employees from life-changing diseases. 

Wood, aluminium, flour dust and many other dusts are combustible, and if they are not extracted and allowed to become suspended in the air, they can be extremely dangerous. A volatile explosion could occur if ignition occurs, causing catastrophic damage. 

Silica dust, for example, is found in many common construction materials, including asphalt, brick, cement, concrete, drywall, grout, mortar, stone, sand, and tile. When these materials are cut, drilled or grinded, this produces respirable crystalline silica, which, if inhaled, can have major adverse effects on an individual’s health.

Drilling Machine automatically processing an aluminium composition materials part.

Not only does a dust control system protect your workforce, but it can also improve the quality of your product. Removing dust at its source means the process is kept clear of dust and debris, which can lead to more accurate fine detail work. 

Employers are responsible for protecting their employees and can face heavy fines for failing to control hazardous dust and fume in the workplace. In 2018, a bakery was fined almost £160,000 for not protecting its staff from flour dust. An investigation by the HSE found that there was no effective method of control to remove airborne flour, leaving employees exposed.

Machinery within the workplace is likely to require less maintenance if a dust control system is in place. Less dust can enter the working area and settle on machinery and equipment, affecting components such as cogs and belts. Large dust plumes are often generated in areas of material transfer or tipping points, so they need careful consideration when planning dust control. 

A local exhaust ventilation (LEV) system is the most common method of controlling dust. An LEV system is made up of a hood/enclosure, ducting, filter, and a fan. Generally speaking, the hood/enclosure is placed as close to the source as possible so that it extracts the hazardous substance being produced. The air containing the hazardous particulates is then transported within the duct and either discharged into the outside atmosphere or cleaned and returned to the workplace; however, external discharge is always preferred. 

Once the LEV system has been installed, it must undergo thorough examination and testing at least once every 14 months to ensure the extraction system runs as effectively as possible. A competent LEV technician must carry out this service.

All of Impact Technical Services’ LEV technicians hold both BOHS P601 Thorough Examination and Testing of Local Exhaust Ventilation Systems and P604 Performance Evaluation, Commissioning and Management of Local Exhaust Ventilation Systems, to ensure peace of mind for the end-user and provides a guaranteed level of competence.

Impact Technical Services provides bespoke LEV system design, installation, servicing, and maintenance. Its design engineers are trained to BOHS P602 (basic design principles of local exhaust ventilation); this ensures that system design is effective and meets the industry standard’s requirements.

www.impacttechnicalservices.co.uk

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