The average person would be surprised to learn how many common objects are made by heat treatment. The utensils you use to eat your breakfast, the stainless-steel watch on your wrist, your lawn mower blade, golf clubs, drinking glasses, bike, and car components – all are manufactured using this process. Heat treating is an industrial technology so ubiquitous it would be impossible to name all the items produced by this means.
As with most manufacturing undertakings, heat treating comes with potential occupational hazards. One of the most significant of these threats is indoor air pollution. With an industry as large as heat treatment, many workers will have compromised health and well-being if their breathing space is not clean and contaminant-free.
Heat Treating Defined
Heat treating is a process whereby a material is warmed to a specific temperature, and then rapidly cooled in order to alter its physical or chemical properties. Objects are heat-treated for a variety of reasons. Some of these industrial purposes include:
- Softening metal to improve shape and function
- Hardening to increase strength and resilience
- Solidifying components to improve durability
- Reinforcing fragile or injured parts
- Creating a solid over soft surface for structural integrity
In addition to multiple reasons for heat treatment, there are numerous methods. Common types include:
- Stress relieving
Indoor Air Quality Concerns
To understand how air quality is compromised, consider what happens when an object is heated. When burning alloys mix with oxygen, most create metal oxide that is immediately emitted into the air. The most common heat-treated metals – aluminum, brass, copper, titanium, magnesium, and steel – all contain potentially toxic properties. This off-gassing can make workers sick if proper ventilation and exhaust systems are not in place. In fact, exposure to certain metal fumes can cause metal fume fever (also called foundryman’s fever), characterized by cough and other flu-like symptoms.
How to Protect Heat-Treating Workers
To reduce occupational risk during heat treatment, workers should wear protective clothing and employ safe work practices. But most important is capturing metal vapors at their source, through fume extraction, such as our popular SP-800 model.
At AIRSInc, we combine stellar indoor air cleaning products with over 30 years of IAQ management expertise. Call us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced specialists.