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The Air That I Breathe…

Lee Darton, Sales Manager at flextraction Ltd, a supplier and manufacturer of Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) products for industrial dust, fume and oil mist extraction, looks at why manufacturing and fabricating industries should seriously look at the filtration efficiency of their LEV (Local Exhaust Ventilation) equipment.  He also believes that equipment suppliers should offer sound, practical, educational advice to industry regarding the testing and marking of air filtration systems for the extraction of welding fumes.

In the 60’s ‘The Air that I Breathe’ was a big hit for The Hollies, although the lyrics are not related to the working environment, the title of the song is very relevant to industrial health and safety.

In industry, it is relatively easy to extract fumes and dust particles from the workplace and filter and return them as clean air safely and efficiently back into the workshop, by using the correct and certified extraction equipment with visible and/or audible warning devices to warn the operator if equipment is not working correctly.  In the 60’s it was normal practice to discharge fumes directly into the workplace or outside without any fear of repercussions, to-day that is not possible.  If companies do not abide by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (CoSHH) regulations and Environmental legislation, then they are not fulfilling their duty to control the risks and could face costly compensation packages to employees, whose health has been affected by the actions of employers by not providing the right equipment for their safety and welfare.   A costly error for both the employer and employee.

It is important that everyone must help the environment and protect the air that we all need to breathe to sustain life.

“In the UK to-day, there are still many thousands of workers, dying from lung disease or getting asthma because of contaminants in the air that they breathe at work” says Lee Darton.  “When flextraction was set up just over 10 years ago, we took the strategic decision to market LEV products that would not only meet all the standards but exceed those required by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

I have represented the BSI British Standards as UK representative for ISO15012-2:2008 specifying the health and safety requirements concerned with the separation of fumes from welding and allied processes. It also covers the testing and marking of equipment for air filtration and describes a method for determining the particle separation efficiency of welding fume separation equipment.  In addition, it deals with the major hazards caused by the emission of welding fume particles from welding fume extraction equipment, when operated correctly and as foreseen by the manufacturer.

This is the efficiency standard we would like to see every manufacturer abide by and put forward to users, sometimes however the cheaper option is easier and we see welders being exposed to re-breathing contaminated air due to poor or inadequate filtration.

As part of our education program, every time we visit a customer, our engineers always produce a written site survey - a 4 page document with over 22 important questions. The very first question we ask is ‘what does the customer expect us to achieve’? That answer is of paramount importance and only when we have analysed all the answers are we able to put recommendations forward that meet or in many cases exceed all the customer’s requirements and expectations.”

Because of this, we believe as a manufacturer and supplier we should help educate and advise manufacturing companies who are looking to invest in ventilation systems or improve their existing systems. We are UK representatives for TEKA GmbH, Germany, LEV products manufacturer, whose filtration efficiency is tested and certificated by the German BGIA (Berufsgenossenschaftliches Institut für Arbeitsschutz) to DIN EN ISO 15012-1 giving welders assurances that air being re-circulated back into the work space is filtered to >99%, or welding fume separation class W3. All filters that we supply, either in fixed equipment or mobile units, are approved and marked accordingly. We also recommend that the user carries out annual maintenance and to document his actions.

Education is a by product of sales and the extraction of welding fumes away from the operator was one of the first applications for fume extraction. Since the industrial revolution in the early 19th century, steel has become one of the most common products seen in to-day’s world, whether it be in ships, buildings, washing machines, to name a few. To join it together you need to weld, rivet or bolt it together. Welding is a process that produces dangerous fumes, more so when the operator is using stainless steels and other exotic materials, all of which are being used more and more in the UK as our manufacturing base moves from high volume mild steel welding to manufacturing high tech, high quality specialised products.”

It is important that all users of welding equipment are aware of ISO 15012-1:2004(E), the European standard as a starting point.  With escalating energy costs UK companies are keen to reduce these costs and one way is not to extract contaminated warm air out into the outside atmosphere, but to re-circulate clean and warm air back into the work space, however it must be filtered correctly and efficiently so as not to cause harm to the employees.  If it is not, it produces another cost – sickness and time off.

Lee Darton concludes: “Good working practice, including regular product maintenance, will reduce the payback time of a Company’s health and safety investment as well as reduce energy costs. It will also help to ensure that employers do not receive claims for compensation due to ill health at a later date. With education, industrial fabricators and manufacturers will start to ask the right questions, so that they do not receive second best”

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