Woodworking professionals work in an environment that creates wood dust during the production process. The presence of this dust necessitates the use of an efficient system to reduce, collect and remove the dust to help meet OSHA General Statue requirements to provide a safe work environment. There are additional National Fire Protection Assn. (NFPA) dust control guidelines that are used as requirements by OSHA. Failure to meet these requirements could result in down production and/or substantial fines.
How your plant collects or handles dust can have negative effects beyond potential OSHA fines. Wood dust can be a serious health and safety hazard if not properly controlled. It can cause respiratory, skin or eye problems for employees, and can also contaminate products, shorten equipment life and even create a potential combustion situation.
High vs. Low Vacuum
Many manufacturers are still sweeping up or blowing the dust away from work areas. This only makes the problem worse. The best place to handle dust is at the source where it is produced and vacuuming is the best method to capture and remove it.
In a typical production facility, large production equipment has hoods, manifolds or other attachments that extract/vacuum the dust produced by the equipment during the production process. But, other equipment and processes also can produce or spread dusts and other contaminates. These can include portable/hand tools and the dust cleaning process.
Dust produced by portable power tools is often collected by low vacuum systems on tables where the work is performed. This can be ineffective, leaving too much dust behind to spread in the air or be trapped in the table area. The low vacuum systems also use more energy because they require a high air volume, but produce a low capture velocity (100 – 5,000 fpm). Low vacuum systems also use a 4- to 6-inch diameter hose and can be inflexible due to the hose size and because the hose is connected to the table, not the tool which is the source of the dust.
The most effective and efficient method to capture dust produced by portable power tools is to use high vacuum dust extraction systems that are connected to the tool (also known as on-tool extraction). This method is up to 99 percent efficient and almost any tool (grinders, sanders, cutters, drills, etc.) can be fitted with a manifold for at-the-source dust extraction. High vacuum dust extraction systems are also more energy efficient, utilizing a collection hose of only about 2-inches in diameter. The system requires only a low air volume, but produces a high capture velocity of 10,000 – 15,000 fpm. The small and flexible hose allows the use of boom arms and hose reels, which enables the worker to use the on-tool extraction in a large area. High vacuum extraction systems can be mobile, portable or stationary. These systems can also offer HEPA filters and auto start/stop vacuum as options.
High vacuum systems also can handle multiple drops, so hoses can be added to vacuum when and where needed, whether with the tools or for cleaning production areas. The high vacuum filter unit also can be placed in a separate room, allowing quiet operation. The filter cleans the air before it is released into the atmosphere. That air can then be recycled back into the work area, saving heating or cooling costs.
This article was submitted by Nederman USA (formerly Dantherm Filtration). For more information, contact Rob Williamson, technical director, at 800-533-5286 ext. 823 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit NedermanFilters.com or NedermanUSA.com.
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