Investing In Dust Collection
Why invest in dust collection? To most of us, the return on investment is not immediately apparent, but there are at least twelve advantages:
The possible health-related results of breathing dust and smoke are numerous…
- Lung and throat cancer
- Continuous coughing
- Sneezing attacks
- Throat phlegm
- Eye irritation
Employers can end up with workers compensation claims and lawsuits. More importantly, staff can end up sick and in danger of loss of full earning capability.
Whether in Canada or the US, legal ramifications exist. Safety legislations, Safety Acts, governments, unions and OSHA all require employers to provide a clean and safe work environment. Removing harmful dust and smoke from the shop environment helps avoid pitfalls and allows employers to meet their legal obligations. It is just good business sense to be proactive in this area.
Insurance companies rate shops as to how concerned they are with maintaining safety and preventing fires. Shops that are clean are less susceptible to fire & accidents, which might help to lower insurance premiums.
Although metal dust is not normally considered a fire hazard, it cannot be said definitively that a fire cannot be started by excess plasma or oxy-acetylene dust. Again, being proactive is the best course of action when dealing with potential hazards.
An abundance of dust in the shop also can create problems in the finishing department. A high concentration of metal dust in the air can be drawn into paint booths, creating a defective finish on the product. This can result in costly rework and lost production time, lower product quality and rejects.
Image is important. First impressions are the “make or break” factor in many purchasing decisions made by customers. Clearly the workplace serves as an indicator of quality to clients. It may sound unrealistic, but the impression that customers take away with them when they leave can be important to a business.
Beyond the impression a dirty shop gives to customers, it also sends a message to the workers. If the area is clean, providing better working conditions, people are happier and more productive. When you start with a clean plant, it is easier to maintain it in that condition. But if staff have to fight dust and smoke, you can end up with unconcerned or even disgruntled employees.
The purchase of a dust collection system is an investment in productivity. Naturally you want to see your investment create revenue. A clean working environment boosts productivity by increasing visibility, improving accuracy of measurements and assemblies, and increasing safety. Uncontrolled dust settles onto machines, walkways, and even on workers’ safety glasses and tools. Without effective dust control, workers stop to clean their work areas and their safety glasses more often. It just makes good sense to provide a clean shop which allows workers to do their job efficiently.
Besides the workers themselves, the cleanliness of the machines they are working on is a major key to improved production. A machine’s performance and longevity are hindered by dust. This dust can affect not only the cutting equipment, but also neighbouring machines like press brakes, shears, lasers and punch presses. Minimizing smoke and dust through the use of dust collection devices reduces maintenance expenses. Bearings, ways and other parts that wear due to the presence of dust must be replaced more often, and to maintain product quality, the equipment must be cleaned more frequently. Plasma cutting systems can fail weekly when no dust collection or inadequate dust collectors were used. The failures are most often related to bearings becoming clogged with the dust and smoke rising from the cutting area into the gantry and torch height control systems. Additionally, the power supplies of plasma systems collect metal dust and therefore will fail more often, resulting in both downtime and replacement costs.
There is one area of an industrial environment that we do forget to consider when it comes to plasma or oxyacetylene dust: the office environment. Office equipment such as printers, copiers, plotters, scanners and computers all attract dust. Computers can and do get their internal components covered in metal dust, even when an electronic dust collection system is installed on the office air supply. The dust enters through doors and entrances to the office. Also, computer boards, network cards, hard drives and floppy drives fail more often as the metal dust causes overheating and shorts in electrical components. In today’s business, computer failure is a large cost that can be avoided with proper dust collection.
Even if a dust collection system is not in effect, something still has to be done about the smoke and dust that piles up. Anytime there is waste or refuse that is generated that you do not have to handle, there is a payback of labour savings.
Responsible business managers must meet both regional environmental requirements as legislated by governments and also quality requirements as outlined by ISO 14000. As much as it is no longer acceptable to allow smoke and dust to pollute the environment, it is also just as important for businesses to be visibly responsible community partners by being proactive with respect to waste and pollution. We are finding it more common to see companies rated by the public by their visible effort, or lack of effort, to solve waste and environmental issues. Many of the environmental issues that arise from the process of metal cutting can be addressed and solved by a proper dust collection system.
One area often overlooked is the value of the property. In a cutting facility that does not use dust or smoke collection systems, the walls and ceiling are heavily discoloured which is costly to remove. This dramatically lowers the value of the property as the dust and smoke is embedded in its walls. Dust collectors help protect the value of the building and as a result can help owners gain greater resale value.