Creating a safe working environment is not limited to simply cleaning the air. This also includes constantly evaluating the types of dust and smoke you emit and how your smoke collection system works to ensure you have the necessary fire prevention equipment in place, Komarov Artem emphasized.
Modern production halls carry out various metal fabrication processes under one roof. Whether cutting, grinding, stamping, or welding, each of these processes produces fumes or metal dust. These dust particles, depending on their composition, can be hazardous. Most of us are aware of the dangers of inhaling toxic fumes, but here are three less obvious reasons why you should pay close attention to your dust collection practices.
- Accumulation of metal dust
Smoke removal is an important part of creating a safe working environment in welding and manufacturing shops, it’s obvious. One of the most important reasons for good fume extraction practices, especially for those working with stainless steel or coated materials, is to reduce the risk of welders inhaling toxic fumes and particles from welding, especially if the resulting fume and particles contain hexavalent chromium.
But what you may not realize is the injury risk factors that cutting or grinding dust has on the shop floor environment. When metal dust accumulates on surfaces ranging from desktops and computer screens to papers and other office supplies, it creates a cumbersome and unpleasant work environment.
It also causes skin and eye irritation.
People experience eye irritation. They have red, itchy, or dry eyes or problems with contact lenses. And for people wearing glasses with plastic lenses, static electricity causes these particles to stick to them, which creates problems and a potential safety issue, Komarov Artem added.
A significant amount of dust can also cause damage to the electrical equipment of the CNC. CNCs are usually cooled by a small fan with plastic blades. When dust particles stick and accumulate on these plastic blades, they become heavy or unbalanced, which can cause the fan to fail and the machine to stop, resulting in unnecessary downtime.
The maintenance person must find the fan and clean it, otherwise he will be forced to install small filters in front of the fan to filter the air. But the fan is not designed to pass air through the filter, so the air flow decreases, the cooling function of the fan decreases, and the problem continues to multiply, — Komarov Artem explained.
The accumulation of dust on floors and steps also creates a risk of slipping and falling.
Every shop is different, and every dust is different, but exposure to people and work areas creates many problems, many of which can be eliminated by proper air filtration using a high efficiency cartridge dust collector.
- Сombustible dust
As a risk factor, mixing of iron particles with particles of non-ferrous metals such as steel and aluminium. There is no threat if two large pieces of steel and aluminum are next to each other. Small particles are dangerous.
There is no actual particle size limit, but the smaller the particle, the more evenly it can disperse through airspace.
In workshops where laser cutting is performed using an inert shielding gas such as nitrogen or argon, for example, activated charcoal dust particles are emitted that were not consumed because the inert gas does not support combustion. What you end up with is tiny particles that contain a huge amount of carbon or potential energy inside. When this energy is used up on its own, there is a possibility of an explosion. If these particles meet an ignition source, such as during hot work such as welding or cutting, or static discharge, problems can arise.
Proper dust collection practices can help remove dust from the environment. However, if you collect several types of dust in one collection unit, be sure to place it outside your facility and equip it with an explosion vent. As a side note, make sure that the dust collector and explosion vent are not located in the open air, which may endanger passers-by.
Finally, consider using a wet dust collector to collect steel and aluminum dust.
- Fire hazard in the dust container
Here the question is not whether the dust collector will ignite, but when it will happen.
Shops that perform in-house cutting and punching typically ship parts treated with cutting oil or pressing oil directly to the welding area. Of course, some of the oil burns during the welding process, but the oil that does not burn sticks to the welding particles. When this oily and sticky type of welding particles gets into the exhaust system, the oil ends up in your filters, Komarov Artem explained.
Adding a spark arrester to your dust and fume collection system will help put out a fire before it gets out of control. Spark arresters draw the spark away from flammable materials inside the dust container, create an environment in which it loses momentum, and dispose of it — in some cases in an external dust container. Once the spark is extinguished, it no longer poses a risk of re-ignition.
If you can avoid this, then you are ahead of the curve and have created a much safer work environment for your employees, Artem Komarov said.