Ski Equipment Manufacturing, Indoor Air Quality, and Occupational Risks
Snow skiing. Once used as a method for hunting game on snow and ice, the activity was built out of necessity, not for sport or exercise. Modern skiing, however, began as a recreational endeavor. In 1849 the first public ski tour was organized in Norway. Less than 20 years later ski resorts appeared, with the first tow rope making the scene in 1910. The chair lift followed in 1936.
The evolution of ski equipment has grown alongside the sport’s popularity and modern ski design has allowed athletes such as Bode Miller and Lindsay Vaughn to reach their maximum potential in worldwide competition and the Olympic games.
Today, skis are made of a complex mix of raw materials that can include wood, metal, plastic, and epoxy – resources that, if not handled properly during production, can cause considerable IAQ problems and create occupational hazards for those crafting the skis.
To understand how the manufacturing of skis (or snow, skate, and surfboards) can present occupational risks for workers, consider the materials involved and the process of their construction. (1)
Wood and foam are primary core materials. The wood comes in laminated strips and the foam is made up of polyurethane and is injected into core form – also known as SPF (spray polyurethane foam).
Plastic is used for base sheeting and the tops of skis. This polyethylene plastic absorbs wax well and is excellent in the use of graphics.
Metal edges are made of steel runners, which are crafted and then attached to the base with adhesives.
Epoxy is a mix of resin and hardener, a crucial part of the ski-making process. Used to stick everything together, it is strong and durable.
The method of turning these raw materials into working parts is a physical one, during which indoor air quality can be compromised if VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are emitted into a worker’s air space.
Polyurethane-treated wood blocks produce dust (2) and chemical fumes during the cutting and milling process. The fine, mist-like particulates emitted from spray polyurethane foam (SPF) can be inhaled by workers, as can the metal dust that is generated during the cutting process used before adding metal edges to skis (3). All emissions can be controlled, and IAQ preserved, when rigorous air quality methods are employed.
Even when control measures prove satisfactory during the assembly process, the risk of fire and explosion loom during the bonding process when polyethylene is used in combination with heat. (4) IAQ is further compromised during the finishing phase, when skis are put through a grinding machine for the final step of smoothing and polishing.
The contaminants created by the dust particles, chemical vapors and other VOCs can cause numerous health complications in workers (5) – even in individuals who have shown no signs of health problems in the past. Symptoms can include:
• Eye, nose and throat irritation
• Headaches, loss of coordination, nausea
• Liver, kidney and central nervous system damage
• Worst case scenario: cancer
OSHA recognizes these dangers and strongly encourages employers eliminate exposure risks by adopting safe practices for their employees through clean air engineering. (6) Local exhaust removal measures can eliminate dust at or near its source.
Thankfully, VOC emissions do not need to cause ill effects. Whether your business manufactures skis or recreational boards, at Air Systems Inc, we serve our customers by identifying areas of potential risk. We supply stellar products that will properly ventilate work areas and remove air impurities. Contact us today to schedule a free estimate with one of our skilled and experienced clean air specialists.