Health Risks from Dust in Industries

Most of us think of dust as a mere nuisance. We assume that the only dust around is the dust that we can see and feel, and for those of us in the construction & manufacturing industries, it is something that clogs our machinery and makes our floors slippery. However, this is not all that dust does. It is also extremely harmful to our lungs and can cause very serious diseases the longer we are exposed to it and the longer it goes unmonitored.

The difference between dust that we can see and dust that can enter our lungs is that the latter is almost invisible. With something like sawdust, this makes the working conditions even more dangerous, due to the unforeseen risk. The reason small particles such as these small wood dust particles cause such serious health concerns is the degree of penetration possible by their size. These dust particles can enter a worker’s airways, where they can lodge and release irritants.

These released irritants can eventually cause serious health problems, one of the most common being cancers in the upper respiratory tract. Therefore, it is no surprise that stomach cancer rates are significantly higher amongst construction workers, specifically those who work with wood.

dust related health risks in industries

dust extraction equipment and system in place to safeguard your workplace

Wood dust has been listed by the USA National Institute of Health as one of 200 recognised materials and chemicals likely to cause cancer since 2002. It was put on this list after becoming a serious concern for health authorities. Many wood manufacturers use a board called MDF along with a chipboard which has all sorts of glues and processed wood. The dust from this can be carcinogenic, and is actually banned in the USA.

The Australian OHS has stated that the most common standard for wood dust is 5 milligrams of dust in one cubic metre of air. Construction carpenters are considered be exposed to the widest range of dust, mostly because they work across a wide range of locations, from small walk-in closets to wide outdoor spaces.

The second most exposed group are turners, but most construction groups are at risk of high dust exposure when considering the OHS standard. Below is a list of occupations within the manufacturing industry with a high risk of dust exposure, listed from highest to lowest risk:

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  1. Construction Carpenter
  2. Lathe Operator
  3. Sander
  4. Wood Worker
  5. Cabinet Maker
  6. Router Operator
  7. Saw Operator

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Sanding is considered the most dangerous activity while working with wood, as it produces the most small particles and is often done very close to the body. A study done has shown that just two minutes of sanding sends the levels of dust in the shed well over the OHS standard. All of these occupations have dust exposure levels that are above the OHS standard, even though that standard is considered too high to begin with.

With many years of experience, dust veterans have come up with some clear guidelines for managing dust in the workplace. Those in the at-risk industries, such as construction & manufacturing, should not only be worried about wood dust, as many other forms of dust have health implications, such as grinding, welding, and spay painting.

The most effective solution for capturing and venting invisible dust has become known as the dust collector. A dust collector that captures 1,000 CFM, with ducting air speeds of 4,000 FPM is the best solution for machinery. This is the ONLY way to ensure that most of the fine dust is collected at the source, so that it does not escape into the lungs.

To give you a better idea of the urgency of this situation and the need for a dust collector, here are some useful woodworking machinery specs:

These days, new advanced technology in wood working machinery are working faster than ever. Therefore a machine that used to do 1700m3/hr (1000CFM) required a pick up velocity of 20.3 m/sec (4000FPM) and was extremely labour intensive. Now the modern advanced CNC Router machines, with built in software, need an air volume of, for example, 8500m3/hr (50003 CFM) at a pick velocity of 34m/sec. (6693FPM)

Air Volume: m3/hr Cubic Meters per hour or CFM = Cubic Feet per Minute

Air Speed/ velocity: meters per second or FPM = Feet per Minute

These innovative machines are pumping out enormous amounts of this nasty dust, and now require more powerful Dust Extractors to remove the dust. This creates a much bigger sense of urgency, as the dust needs to be captured faster before it can settle around the factory and do serious damage to the employees.

Dust Extraction offer several dust control solutions have the experience, knowledge and equipments. Our powerful extraction fans will safeguard your workers and your workplace safe and in compliance with the OHS standard. Please call us at 1300 800 380 to speak to our friendly staff today and organise a dust collector for your business.