workplace

Protect Metalworkers From Oil Mist Hazards

Employers must protect workers from the hazards of cutting fluids that become airborne.

Employers can protect workers from the hazards of cutting fluids that become airborne through oil mist collectors.

For jobs involving metalworking that produces an airborne oil mist, it’s important to remember this substance poses a potential health hazard to workers, especially in the event of long-term exposure. Prolonged interaction with the colorless, odorless and oily liquid substance could result in irritation to workers’ eyes, skin and respiratory systems, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Employees could show signs of respiratory problems if they inhale oil mist, leading to chronic respiratory disease, making it essential that employers protect against such hazards.

Simple, compliant measures to reduce exposure include having workers wear protective work clothing and being careful in avoiding skin contact with metalworking fluids. If their clothing is contaminated, they should change into clean clothing immediately. After being exposed, employees should wash themselves promptly and after their shift ends.

An oil mist collector is one of the best defenses against the hazards presented by oil mist. The air cleaner acts to remove workplace contaminants from the air. This type of safety equipment can also be equipped with a variety of filter options for chemical fume removal and more.

Industrial Hygiene & Indoor Air Quality Concerns

Industrial Hygiene & Indoor Air Quality Concerns 1

In the early 20th century, public awareness of occupational-related illnesses was not yet a reality, but advocacy for the safety of US laborers was beginning to grow. Physicians, research scientists, and medical experts began documenting worker health problems. Pioneers of the labor-advocacy movement led efforts to improve industrial hygiene after finding conclusive evidence linking worker illness to contact with noxious contaminants. Industrial hygiene, simply put, is the environment of cleanliness in a given industry. It is a broad-reaching topic, one that includes indoor air quality.

Indoor air quality can be compromised everywhere – in all types of businesses. Perhaps the most at-risk industries are those in the production of goods. Dust and fumes generated during the manufacturing process can result in the release of impurities in the workplace. This exposure to unclean air can be hazardous which is why agencies such as OSHA have gone to great lengths to protect the US labor force from unsafe working conditions.

The World Health Organization named airborne dust and vapors in the workplace vital global health concerns because of their association with widespread disease. (1)

Clean Air Standards in the Workplace

The government requires all industries to comply with certain clean air standards. But in some cases, business owners wish to go beyond what is federally mandated and ensure that their workers are completely protected from errant toxins in order to eliminate health risks and improve productivity.

This is where industrial hygiene becomes a necessary focus. OSHA defines industrial hygiene as,

The science devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of those environmental factors or stresses arising in or from the workplace, which may cause sickness, impaired health and well being, or significant discomfort among workers. (2)

Industries most likely to generate excessive dust include:

  1. Any job that breaks or crushes solid material, such as stone masonry
  2. Foundries
  3. Blasting labors such as rust and paint removal
  4. Glass and ceramics manufacturing
  5. Powered chemical use in chemical, pesticide, pharma and rubber industries
  6. Food processing plants, such as flour mills and bakeries

In addition to dust and particulates, fumes and mists threaten workplace safety. Specific manufacturing jobs that have a high incidence of occupational exposure to chemical fumes include those in the paint, welding, rubber, and pharmaceutical industries. It isn’t just the health of the workforce that can suffer. When indoor air quality is poor, production can suffer as well.

Building Awareness

Often, business owners are aware of the exposure risks faced by their employees and take steps to remediate. However, when it isn’t clear what environmental dangers exist, they can hire industrial hygienists (IHs) to analyze, identify, and measure occupational hazards that can cause health problems in their workers. (3) IHS uses environmental monitoring and analytical methods to detect the extent of worker exposure.

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) names – but does not limit – occupational risks to the following contaminants:

Aerosols, airborne particles, asbestos, combustibles, dust, gases, hazardous waste, lead, nanotechnology, pesticides, silica, and solvents. (4)

A professional industrial hygienist will measure air quality in two key areas: a worker’s breathing zone and the ambient air in a given physical area. The resultant approach to improving air quality is three-tiered:

  1. Eliminate or reduce particles and fumes through engineering controls
  2. Extract particulates and fumes through capture and ventilation systems
  3. Filter particulates and fumes from inside and then discharge outside (5)

WHO backs up this standard of practice, citing the best way to improve poor IAQ is through elimination at the source, containment, and ventilation. (1)

Don’t let poor industrial hygiene prove to be a setback for your business. At AIR Systems, Inc. we serve our customers by identifying areas of potential risk. We supply stellar products that will eliminate, extract, and filter out hazardous dust and fumes, removing air-impurities from your place of business, keeping your workers safe. Contact us today to schedule a free estimate with one of our skilled and experienced clean air specialists.

Cancer is Manufacturing’s Silent & Deadly Occupational Hazard

Cancer is Manufacturing’s Silent & Deadly Occupational Hazard 1

Cancer. The word evokes many feelings in people, sadness, and fear top the list. It’s no wonder. On a global scale, nearly 13 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year. Cancer is the leading cause of death in developed countries, including the United States. (1)

This group of diseases is caused by the division of abnormal cells, which causes malignant growths (or tumors) in specific parts of the body. A malignancy can increase in size, spreading the disease throughout the body. This often results in death.

Carcinogens in the Workplace

Many causes play a role in the growth of malignancies. A person’s risk of developing any given cancer is influenced by a combination of factors. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on exposure to cancer-causing agents in the workplace. In most instances, exposure is due to poor indoor air quality (IAQ).

Millions of U.S. workers are exposed to substances that have been tested and deemed carcinogenic. Based on research studying a link between cancer and occupational exposures, the CDC has reported these findings:

It has been estimated that 3-6% of all cancers worldwide are caused by exposure to carcinogens in the workplace. Using cancer incidence numbers in the U.S, this means that in 2012 (the most recent year available), there were between 45,872 and 91,745 new cancer cases that were caused by past exposure in the workplace. Cancers that occur as a result of exposures in the workplace are preventable if exposures to known or suspected carcinogens can be reduced. (1)

Our science and medical communities have cautioned industries about specific substances that cause cancer (such as benzene, styrene, and asbestos, for example). In addition, the government has imposed indoor air quality regulations. Despite this, occupational exposures to carcinogens continue to exist. Researchers at the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified more than one hundred carcinogens of physical, biological, or physical nature. Experts continue to discover new carcinogens, many of them occupationally related. (2)

Education and Outreach

Occupational exposure to cancer-causing material is thought to account for about 4% of all cancers in the US. Though such exposure has decreased greatly over the past several decades (due to stricter government standards), current statistics may reflect historical exposures that are only now being identified.

Though knowledge and strict regulations exist for certain cancer-causing compounds, dusts, and particulates in the workplace, potential exposure can still occur through accidents, regulation violations, or unknown hazards. (3)

Educational outreach and dissemination of information has been consistent, but workers may still be unaware they are at risk. Factory production workers, in addition to manufacturing laborers, are particularly vulnerable. Production workers often repeat the same set of tasks for every product that comes down the assembly line. The repetitive nature of the process allows workers to become highly efficient at their assignments. (4) It also means that if carcinogenic exposure is present, they will be exposed day-after-day, week-after-week to toxic, disease-causing agents.

Many occupations hold a threat of contact with cancer-causing pollution, but some industries top out the list for cancer rates and exposure risks. Consider the following:

Occupations With The Highest Incidence Of Cancers Reported

Paint-Related Manufacturing – Bladder, Kidney, Lung, Lymphoma

Rubber-Related Manufacturing – Bladder, Larynx, Leukemia, Lung, Lymphoma

Plastics-Related Manufacturing – Kidney, Larynx, Liver (3)

In the paint industry, for example, there are thousands of chemical compounds used. Pigments, extenders, binders, additives, and solvents contain known cancer-causing agents such as toluene and xylene. Paint manufacture workers are potentially exposed to the chemicals found in the products they manufacture (5), as are laborers in the manufacture of rubber. Rubber workers handle raw materials in day-to-day operations. Production workers in both groups are exposed to dust and fumes via inhalation and dermal contact. (6) This exposure translates to a significant risk of contracting the occupational illness, even cancer.

Working in these industries needn’t be a cancer threat, however. The EPA recommends eliminating indoor air pollutants through air cleaning source control and ventilation. (7)

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.

Remove Indoor Air Quality Occupational Risk For Plastics Industry Workers

Workers are exposed to a variety of fumes as part of heating and molding  processes in the plastics industry during plastics manufacturing.

As a versatile material, plastics is used to make packaging and containers, to ensure quality smartphone manufacturing and for a variety of other applications. There are over 1.1 million employees in the plastics industry, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

These workers commonly come into contact with chemical fumes that are emitted during raw material manufacturing and plastics processing. As plastics come in the form of granules, powders or pellets, there are certain ways to mold or shape these materials into products. For the plastics manufacturing process, the material has heat or pressure applied to the plastic or the plastic resins are combined with additives, including fillers and pigments, according to Health and Safety Executive.

Sources of Plastics Fumes

One of the main plastic-making processes employed by manufacturers is thermoplastic injection molding, which heats plastic pellets until they are melted so they can be shaped by a mold to form products. As workers perform these manufacturing procedures, they are at risk for being exposed to fumes from the plastics either from the machines used for manufacturing or the plastics materials themselves.

“The primary sources of emissions at plastic products manufacturing facilities are the pieces of equipment (e.g., extruder hopper, die head, sander) used to handle raw materials and produce the final product,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. “These are typically the locations where chemical reactions occur, liquid solvents and solvent blends are exposed to the atmosphere, solid resin is heated and melted, and additives are introduced.”

The level of fume exposure during the process varies but it is usually dependent on the type of operating procedure and the material that is being produced. Workers may find themselves exposed to different kinds of fumes during plastics processing, including hydrogen chloride from PVC plastic and formaldehyde from acetals. When heat is applied to it, pure PVC breaks down to form hydrochloric acid gas. Fumes from plastics can irritate the lungs and are even thought to be cancer-causing.

Types of Emissions From Plastic Manufacturing

Employees can also come into contact with plastics fumes while handling thermoforming resins, which could generate volatile organic compounds (VOC) and hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions. These are byproducts of the chemical reactions of heating resins and are also emitted by additives, a secondary material in the process. In addition to VOCs and HAP emissions, particulate matter can also form while workers handle raw materials through grinding or cutting or other finishing procedures for plastic production.

To help control the presence of fumes, HSE recommends implementing local exhaust ventilation (LEV). This engineering control can include fume extraction equipment such as extractors, which can be effective in case plastic film sticks and overheats or other instances where heating processes can endanger workers. Aging machines can also pose a risk to workers if their processing controls are unpredictable.

OSHA also recommends adequate ventilation and fume extraction systems so workers do not inhale gases that could cause long term health effects.

Industrial and manufacturing news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.

For Healthy Indoor Air Quality, Food Manufacturers Need Clean Air

For Healthy Indoor Air Quality , Food Manufacturers Need Clean Air 1

Facing the constant risk of bacteria and regulatory pressures from federal agencies, food manufacturers must ensure their products are free from all sources of contamination, including the air. Maintaining safe and hygienic air quality levels not only provides employees with a comfortable work environment but also reduces the possibility of contaminants that are commonly found during food manufacturing.

Air should especially be controlled if it comes into direct contact with food. For example, common foods that are processed using air filtration systems include eggs. To prevent contamination of eggs by micro-organisms such as salmonella, eggs are sent through in-line conveyor belts, scrubbed with automated machinery, dried with filtered air and sanitized with chlorine misters.

Proper safety measures can help prevent the growth of microorganisms and the accumulation of particulates such as dust. Microorganisms that can harm food and, consequently, people are airborne and live within droplets, according to Food Safety Magazine. If the air is unfiltered, this could pose a challenge to facilities that wish to keep their structural features, such as overhead pipelines, clean and sanitized. As a best practice for food manufacturers, facilities should have filtration systems to safely remove airborne contaminants and improve the air quality of the building.

Sources for Contamination

When monitoring the air quality for food production factories, companies should note the physical volume of the facility as well as likely sources of food contamination and vulnerable areas in production lines. Sources of contamination could include raw materials used for production, packaging and movable equipment. Since machinery can generate exhaust, placing extractor arms near this equipment can effectively control potential air contamination. People can also bring particulates into the workplace as employees can track in dust and dirt on their feet or clothing. Dust can also cause micro-organism growth unless these particulates and various other contaminants are captured by air filtration systems.

Controls for Contamination

Temperature is an important factor for how food manufacturers can prevent airborne contamination, according to a report by Auburn University Department of Animal Sciences.

“The simplest, most straight-forward method of controlling processing room air conditions is to make sure that all HVAC units are in good working order and consistently maintaining temperature,” the Auburn University study said. “Additionally, doors to processing rooms should be kept closed at all times to reduce the chance of cross contamination and to assist the cooling units in maintaining temperature.”

Of course, proper air filtration goes hand-in-hand with temperature control. Food Safety News suggested the type of products within the facility that are being processed should determine the amount of filtration for incoming air. For example, products that are susceptible to contamination on a micro-level should utilize the highest standard filters.

It is also important to keep ventilation systems running as the risk of contamination grows as time passes.

“It has also been shown that as the day progresses, the amount of air contamination increases,” Auburn University researchers said. “In fact, as the week progresses, there is an increase in the overall contamination of air with bacteria and mold.”

Industrial and manufacturing news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.

Indoor Air Quality Risks for Oil Refinery Welders

Refineries should ensure their staff have proper ventilation to protect against toxic fumes

Petroleum companies should ensure their staff have proper ventilation to protect against toxic fumes.

When companies do not protect the respiratory health of their workers, they could face severe penalties.

An oil refinery was recently fined by the Wyoming Occupational Safety Health Administration for multiple workplace safety violations, including for failure to protect workers from hazardous fumes, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. The 22 safety violations could cause the company to be fined over $700,000 – the biggest fine ever issued in Wyoming. During an inspection, it was discovered the company did not implement proper safety controls to protect workers and employees were found to not have emergency response training.

“It is pretty unusual,” said John Ysebaert, an administrator with Wyoming OSHA. “We have several other refineries in the state and have not had this pattern of issues.”

Some penalties were due to reports of 20 refinery workers becoming ill after exposure to toxic fumes. These chemical hazards included hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide.

“Certainly when you have 20 people overcome by fumes, they did not have an effective process or procedure,” Ysebaert said.

In addition to these chemical fumes, petroleum refineries can generate different air contaminants, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Combat welding fume exposure for workers in refineries

Oil and gas industry workers who are commonly exposed to toxic gases include metalworking staff. Employees performing hot work, as described by OSHA, through welding, cutting or brazing are at risk for a variety of injuries and illnesses – from skin injuries from sparks or fires to exposure to welding fumes.

As another major hazard, welding fumes can be considered toxic. To limit the health and safety risks associated with toxic gases, or what OSHA considers a “special hazard,” the agency recommends that employers make sure there is enough ventilation from welding and cutting fumes. Confined spaces especially need to have proper ventilation as toxic gases can accumulate.

For controlling toxic gas exposure, OSHA suggests employers implement mechanical ventilation systems for welding fume extraction if employees are working in confined areas, such as fume extraction equipment.

Workers at fined oil refineries were exposed to hydrogen sulfide, which is considered a flammable gas. Welding employees who work around hydrogen sulfide could become burned if a flash fire or explosion occurred. Additional personnel should be stationed in order to guard against this risk or prevent injury to welding workers should materials combust.

Industry regulation and worker respiratory safety news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.

Thermoset Plastic Manufacturing and PAH Exposure

Thermoset Plastic Manufacturing and PAH Exposure 1

Upon entering the kitchen and flicking on the light, little thought is likely given to where or how that light switch was made, any more than thought is given to the countertops on which the food is prepared or the pot handles of the vessel used to cook the food. Those who work in the thermosetting plastics industry, however, think about these products all the time. It’s what they do.

Plastics are one of the most used and indispensable materials in modern life and thermoset plastics, in particular, are valued for their stain and heat resistance and for their durability.

Employing over 1.1 million workers in the United States, the plastics industry represents a substantial percentage of the American workforce. (1) Of those workers, many of them work in thermosetting, jobs ranging from raw material manufacturing to plastics processing.

Thermoset plastics are synthetic materials that cannot be molded or reheated after their initial heat formation. Thermosetting is the process of transforming granular material into molded shapes, curing through a chemical reaction activated by heat and pressure, which in turn forms a strong molecular bond. This is in contrast to thermoplastics, which are products that soften when heated and harden after cooling.

As with all industries that manufacture goods, there are occupational risks.

One such risk is PAH exposure. PAHs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, are a group of chemical compounds that are found naturally in the burning of fossil fuels and are by-products of heat-produced manufactured goods such as medicines, dyes and plastics. Of these compounds, naphthalene is a top contender of risk: a substance that is not only pervasive, but also harmful. (2)

The chemical naphthalene is most commonly known for its use in mothballs. Naphthalene evaporates easily and gives mothballs their distinct odor. But in the production of thermosets, naphthalene is released into the air at the melting and burning stage, causing vapors to enter a worker’s air space. Once airborne, naphthalene is broken down by moisture and sunlight but not quickly; often lingering in the atmosphere up to 24 hours. (3)

Acute (short-term) symptoms of naphthalene exposure will present immediately when levels are high. Various symptoms include headache, confusion, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dermatitis, optical twitching and corneal damage. Organs targeted are the eyes, skin, blood, liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. (4) Cataracts have also been reported in workers acutely exposed to naphthalene by inhalation. Chronic (long-term) exposure, especially at low levels, is harder to identify due to symptoms being typical of a variety of other causations. Chronic symptoms are similar to those of acute exposure, with additional indicators such as retinal damage and cataracts. The EPA has classified naphthalene as a possible (Group C) human carcinogen. (5)

But naphthalene exposure to workers in the thermosetting industry is by no means inevitable. Preventative measures on the manufacturing floor – protective clothing, proper ventilation, and indoor air cleaning products – can eliminate the presence of offending vapors and fumes.

At Air Systems Inc, we protect our customers in the plastics industry by providing them with stellar indoor air cleaning equipment and products. Contact us today to set up a free consultation with one of our clean air specialists.

Occupational Risk for Shoe Repairers

Compromised indoor air quality is an occupational risk for leather shoe repairers.

Compromised indoor air quality is an occupational risk for leather shoe repairers.

Those who remember the children’s story, The Elves And The Shoemaker, likely envision the protagonist hunched over his cobbler’s bench, surrounded by tools as he stitched together leather pieces and mended old and worn boots and shoes. But in the picture books, plumes of smoke were not depicted. Neither the shoemaker nor the elves that made and fixed the shoes were shown coughing from toxic fumes or wincing from the sting of dirty air. And yet, back then, it was most certainly the reality of the trade.

Today, shoe repairers fare better than their turn-of-the-century predecessors but indoor air quality (IAQ) is still an issue with which the industry struggles. Of the nearly 8,000 tradesmen (1) in the Shoe & Leather Workers & Repairers Industry nationwide, a significant number of them have a high occupational risk for contact with unhealthy toxic substances. While the process of shoe repair seems quick, clean, and straightforward, it is a trade that requires both dexterity and ability. It also includes numerous exposure risks.

Whether a leather upper of a men’s western boot is torn at the seam, a delicate sandal needs a new heel or a pair of men’s wingtips requires resoling, the activity of repair will create dust and fumes. And though the number of toxins released may seem insignificant to a cobbler at the time of restoration, it is the duration of time spent – day after day and year after year – that is hazardous to a shoe repairer’s health. Sanding and nailing wood and cutting and shaving leather creates dust and particulates. The use of adhesives, dyes, and finishes all generate fumes and gases. Combined, these toxins negatively impact the indoor air quality surrounding the breathing space of the person doing the fixing. (2)

Global epidemiological studies provide evidence that employment in shoe production and repair is associated with an enhanced risk for cancer (primarily nose and nasal sinuses). According to the majority of findings, these types of cancers are induced by exposure to leather dust. Leather dust particles contain numerous chemicals acquired during the process of leather tanning and finishing and some of these compounds exert a carcinogenic effect. (3)

In fact, among the occupational causes of sino-nasal cancer, the International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC) has implicated the manufacture and repair of leather goods as a leading employment category for contact with hazardous contaminants. What’s more, the IARC asserts that because there is less scientific consensus on the carcinogenic effect of fumes and dust from the repairing process, proper preventive measures have not been implemented by many workplaces thus workers are not adequately protected against this health risk. (3) But cancer is not the only threat.

shoe-repairer-being-exposed-to-various-chemical-fumes-and-dust

Electron-microscopic studies showed that the airborne dust samples collected during the machine repair of shoes contained leather, polymers, and finishing materials. (2) And within a variety of common shoe repair and refinishing products, two major chemicals, heptane, and ethanol, often can be found.

Symptoms from exposure to both chemicals can include headache, dizziness, vertigo, lightheadedness, stupor, unconsciousness, and irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes. In addition, harmful reproductive consequences are possible. Both chemicals have regulated workplace exposure limits and should be managed with respiratory care in mind. (4)

It is unlikely that Americans will stop wearing shoes and requiring their restoration. So long as this is true, exposure to dust and fumes will be an occupational hazard for cobblers. But shoe repairers needn’t subject themselves to unnecessary risk.

At Air Systems Inc., we serve our customers in the Shoe & Leather Workers & Repairers Industry by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to stellar IAQ products. Our air impurity removal systems remove toxic fumes and dust for the health and peace of mind of both employee and business owner.

Contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced environmental specialists.

Combustible Dust Hazards in Manufacturing

Maintain Clean Indoor Air Quality To Combat Combustible Dust Fires and Explosions in Industrial Settings

Maintain Clean Indoor Air Quality to Combat Fires and Explosions in Industrial Settings

One of the most horrific events of America’s industrial manufacturing history was the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory fire in New York City. The tragedy, which killed 146 workers, led to the enactment of a succession of laws and regulations that eventually improved the protections and safety of all factory workers

But calamities still occur, such as the 2008 dust explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery in Georgia. Thirteen people were killed and another 42 were injured when extreme heat in a confined sugar bagging room mixed with product dust particulates.

Not all fires cause explosions or loss of life. In a typical incident, airborne combustible dust material comes into contact with an ignition source, which causes a small fire. Even small fires in industrial facilities cause product loss, time, and money. Or the outcome can be far worse. If there is nearby dust, the primary explosion will cause that dust to become airborne. Then, the dust cloud itself can ignite, causing a secondary explosion that will likely be many times the size and severity of the primary explosion. These secondary explosions have the potential to bring down entire facilities, causing immense damage and fatalities – a reality both the Triangle and Imperial disasters underscore. Today, most businesses have specific industrial safety measures in place in order to avoid a calamity. But such systems are only as good as the people who monitor them. Vigilance must be constant.

The “Fire Triangle”

For a fire to actually occur, rapid oxidation of materials must mix with heat or light and various fuel sources.

Elements Of Fire
    1. Combustible dust (fuel)
    2. Ignition source (heat)
    3. Oxygen in air (oxidizer)
Elements Of Dust Explosion add to the triangle:
    4. Dispersion of dust particles in sufficient quantity and concentration
    5. Confinement of the dust cloud

What Businesses Are At Risk?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) defines industrial manufacturing properties as:

…Those with a variety of property uses, including manufacturing and processing, agriculture, utility or distribution systems, energy production, laboratories, mines or quarries, and forest, timberland, or woodlands. 

The definition attributed by the NFPA serves to highlight the types of manufacturing likely to create conditions conducive for fires to start. But the potential for accumulated particulate solids to ignite and create a flash fire or explosion is a constant hazard in just about every industry you can name. The reason is that just about everything, including food, dyes, chemicals, and metals – even materials that don’t fire risks in greater quantities – have the potential to be combustible in dust form. Industries, along with their ignition sources, with the highest incident reports, are:

Food Production – agricultural products such as sugar and grains

Woodworking – wood sawdust

Recycling Facilities – a wide variety of combustible materials are processed and transported

Metal Work – metallic dust

Synthetic Manufacturing – plastics, pharmaceuticals, rubber

Avoiding Fires

The most recent NFPA estimates show an average of 37,000 fires at industrial plants and factories each year.  Many, if not all, of these fires and explosions, could be avoided with proper – and diligently monitored – control measures. OSHA recommends the Three C’s for fuel and dust fire avoidance:

  • Capture dust before it escapes into a work area by using properly designed, installed, approved, and maintained dust collection systems.
  • Contain dust within the equipment, systems, or rooms that are built and operated to safely handle airborne combustible dust.
  • Clean work areas, overhead surfaces, and concealed spaces frequently and thoroughly using safe housekeeping methods to remove airborne combustible dust not captured or contained

At Air Systems Inc., we protect our customers by using our stellar products to capture particulate matter and remove potentially combustible fumes and vapors from their business environments. For the safety and peace of mind of you and your workforce, contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced environmental specialists.

Emissions From Office Equipment Compromises Indoor Air Quality

Office equipment like photo copiers and laser printers negatively Affect indoor air quality.

Office equipment is meant to lighten the load of the average worker, but may have an unintended consequence: contaminated air. Since the early-2000s, numerous studies have been done on indoor air quality as it concerns sicknesses that affect office workers.

The EPA has defined office worker illness this way:

The term “sick building syndrome” (SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone or may be widespread throughout the building, In contrast, the term “building-related illness” (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants. (1)

In so far as a health condition can be labeled, “Building-Related Illness” is what the EPA refers to when describing the otherwise unexplained symptoms from which office workers suffer. Based on the research results, copiers and printers are largely at fault.

Office Equipment Negatively Affects Indoor Air Quality

Xerox introduced the first desk-sized photocopier in 1959. At nearly 650 pounds, it was a monster of a machine. And it revolutionized how businesses operated. Today’s copying process, xerography, is largely the same method as the one debuted by Xerox. Image reproduction is a dry process, one that uses electrostatic charges on a light-sensitive photoreceptor to attract, then transfer, toner particles (which are in powder form) onto paper in the image of the original subject. Heat and pressure are then used to fuse the toner onto the paper. Laser printing works in a similar fashion.

The specific point at which the printing and copying process causes problems is when toner fuses to paper. When toner is heated, fumes, and particulates from chemicals such as styrene and benzene derivatives are released into the air. While the concentration levels released are generally low, they are dangerous to the average office worker due to exposure over the long term – day after day, and year after year of breathing in chemical dust and fumes can wreak havoc on human health. (3)

Overexposure to Volatile Organic Compounds

Whether one works in a large-scale copy center or at a desk that is near a copy machine or printer that serves five people, a bevy of pollutants is emitted into the air each time the machines are used. Toner and paper particles, toxic gases such as nitrogen dioxide and ozone are launched into a worker’s breathing space. (2) Toxicity studies have shown that the particulates that are inhaled have poor solubility and accumulate in the lungs. What follows can be a number of health complaints: headache, fatigue, breathlessness, allergic reactions, and respiratory problems – some quite severe. (3)

While most printers and copiers emit toxins and particulates at levels that are at or under recommended exposure levels, contact over a prolonged period of time can inflict long-term health effects.

What to Do About It

These studies don’t suggest that people stop using copiers or printers, as that would be vastly impractical advice. Office equipment like copying and printing machines are both essential in running a business. Minimizing exposure to equipment emissions is the only means of protecting the health of employees (4) and can be done easily, and cost-effectively:

  1. Employee workspaces should be located in areas that are well ventilated
  2. Air should recirculate with fresh air blended with the indoor source
  3. Equipment, when possible, should be located away from employee workspaces (5)
  4. In cases where emissions and/or worker health has already been compromised, the use of air cleaning systems should be employed

At AIR Systems Inc., we serve our customers who work in office environments by providing indoor air quality management solutions. Our air impurity removal systems remove air impurities for the health and peace of mind of both employee and business owner.

Contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced indoor environmental specialists.