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Breathing easy on site - Factory ducting

Editorial
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With the constant grinding, cutting and welding carried out in the manufacturing space, it's no surprise that air quality is a major issue for all manufacturers.

Areas where woodworking and welding activities are carried out have an unsurprisingly high number of inherent issues when it comes to airborne dust and fume control.

In the case of woodworking, the prevalence of wood dust becomes a health issue when particles from processes such as sanding, milling, cutting and turning become airborne.

From an WHS perspective, breathing in these particles could cause a number of adverse respiratory reactions and possibly even cancer in the long term.

In fact a recent study into sawdust and wood dust has directly linked exposure to lung cancer.

The study found that those exposed to wood dust and sawdust in a sawmill work environment had a 50% increased risk of developing lung cancer.

This damage is not even realised most of the time due to the fact that the most damaging element is the invisible fine dust, typically known as "coarse inhalable particles" that are between two to ten microns in size.

"Basically, these tiny bits of sawdust float around the air and linger even after the tools have stopped running. These invisible particles get inhaled and cause tiny wounds and scarring to our lungs: each time this happens, it causes a very small amount of irreversible damage. The immediate effect is unnoticeable, but over long periods of time, this can result in significantly decreased lung capacity, and a number of other health issues," according to Eric Meier, at The Wood Database.

On top of this there is the issue of the finished product having its quality affected by large volumes of dust and of course the dust even becoming a potential explosive problem in some industries.

According to Eximo’s founder and managing director Roger Marriott, a focus on workers' safety coupled with investing heavily into research and developing has been key in ensuring Australian workers have access to the very latest and best ducting technology to avoid issues such as these.

Marriott went on to state that Eximo has been playing a major part in this and “as a company, we are continually coming up with new products to ensure that as manufacturing techniques advance, we have the exact waste disposal system to meet any specific requirements”.

In Australia, the two that most common varieties of ducting are flexible ducting and modular ducting.

Flexible ducting is usually made from various grades and weights of PVC, Polyurethane or rubber- the higher the grade and weight, the tougher the flexible ducting; while modular is typically steel ducting.

According to Eximo "since [our] speedLOCK Modular Steel Ducting is manufactured using only smooth bore technology, it greatly minimises the risk of wood waste settlement and system clogging".

"Moreover for applications where some clogging is unavoidable, the system’s easy access makes cleaning and maintenance literally a breeze"

However its not just woodworking where there are WHS concerns about the large amounts of airborne waste; applications where welding is a daily task also sees the output of many volumes of what are known to be very toxic fumes.

The dangers of welding fumes have long been known. For example, according to Safe Work Australia: “Many cases of acute poisoning due to excess exposure or severe short term exposure to one or more welding fume or gas have been documented… Due to the presence of chromium, nickel and aluminium, there is concern about the effects of chronic exposure on special groups such as welders of stainless
steel and aluminium”. 

Ferret itself has investigated the dangers of welding fumes.

It found that The substances in the fumes change depending on what is in the electrode and the base metal including any coatings. 
 
The most common compounds in fumes when welding mild steel, for example, are complex oxides of iron, manganese and silicon. 
 
The short term effects of these compounds, if inhaled, are temporary and include burning eyes and skin, dizziness, nausea and fever. 
 
However long term exposure to these fumes can lead to silicosis (iron deposits of the lungs), bronchitis, and even lung fibrosis has been reported. 
 
And if the compounds found in the welding fumes include Barium, symptoms may include severe stomach pains, slow pulse rate, convulsions, muscular spasms and even death. 

Welding professionals should understand that it all depends on the base material and the consumable the welder is using and if the metal is coated. It is not uncommon for welders to be overcome with paint fumes when welding painted metal.
  
Thankfully, most welders are aware of the dangers of welding fumes, and the short term and long term respiratory problems they can cause. 
 
For example the vast majority of welding machines and consumables in Australia have warning labels on them regarding welding fumes. 
 
However, welders should be especially aware of working with exotic materials such as cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorides, manganese, nickel, silica and zinc, even stainless steel. 

To help keep the workplace free of toxic welding fumes, Eximo has a developed number of solutions, one of which is a flexible ducting product called WeldFlex -a lightweight PVC ducting material that is flame retardant according to DIN 4102 and a temperature resistance of up to 100° C.

WeldFlex has a number of highly unique attributes including being self-extinguishing, high flexibility, extreme helix-like PVC structure and is available from 52 mm to 505 mm in diameter and is designed for use in a variety of industries including those where explosion issues and safety are paramount.

On the point of these qualities, Roger Marriot also says apart from staying well within the myriad of worker safety laws and other health parameters, any ducting, flexible or modular also needs to be able to be future-proofed. 

“Whether you are turning wood or welding ships, as a company we are determined to stay one step ahead of whatever dust extraction problem you may have today or in the near future”.

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