Furniture manufacturing companies often use toxic chemicals that may cause lasting health problems for workers.These chemicals, such as glue fumes from binding wood, can be inhaled or absorbed through skin. Safeguarding employees from occupational hazards such as these requires engineering controls like fume extractors and other air cleaning equipment.
Furniture production picking up
The furniture sector was one of the 15 manufacturing industries that experienced growth in November, according to the Institute for Supply Management. A representative from the furniture industry said manufacturing activity picked up near the end of the year. New orders increased for the sixth straight month, rising 3 percentage points in November to 63.6 percent, compared to the previous month. The furniture sector was No. 3 on the ISM’s list of industries reporting more new orders in November and also ranked No. 3 in production.
Guarding against chemical fume exposure
As manufacturing picks up in the sector, furniture employers should guard against long-term health effects of fume exposure created by glue fumes. Workers often use glue to hold cushions and frames together for chairs or couches. Workers can also come into contact with chemicals in paints that are used for furniture designs.
“Finishes and paints have numerous chemicals that are toxic, many of which are simply for keeping it liquid while it’s in the can,” said Susan Inglis, executive director of the nonprofit Sustainable Furnishings Council, according to Buildings Magazine. “As it dries, those chemicals are off-gassed. Read the ingredients of your paint or finish – if you’re smelling something, you could be smelling some of those ingredients.”
Glue fumes emit n-propyl bromide (nPB), which is known to cause damage to workers’ neurological systems. As a side effect of nPB exposure, workers could develop dead foot, or drop foot. Sheri Farley, a furniture worker, described the condition to the New York Times, saying she has pain down her spine and legs. She said her doctors told her the glue fumes she was exposed to while using a spray glue gun caused her nerve endings to weaken, resulting in dead foot.
Using extractor arms for worker protection
As furniture workers are often exposed to hazardous fumes, employers should implement fume extraction equipment to control toxic levels that may cause occupational illnesses or adverse medical conditions. Mobile fume extraction systems is also an effective option for worker protection as employers can move this engineering control to capture fumes, such as those emitted during gluing, before workers breathe in harmful chemicals. The mobile extraction devices feature extractor arms that are easy for workers to adjust to maximize the level of contaminant removal.
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