With 12,000 workplace-related respiratory deaths every year, a further 14,000 lung conditions reported, and 400,000* working days lost annually through breathing problems, effective fume and dust extraction technology is seen as central to safeguarding employee health and safety.
Businesses of every size have a legal duty to assess risks associated with airborne contaminants and, if required, install an effective local exhaust ventilation system to remove potentially harmful particulates, liquid droplets (usually aerosols or mists) and vapours or gases.
Fume particles in the 2 to 3 micron range are of particular concern for respiratory function because these can penetrate into the alveolar lung region, and because particles smaller than 30 microns are not normally visible to the human eye, they present a danger hidden from sight that can only be removed through effective fume extraction.
BOFA International, which recently received a Queen’s Award for Innovation, develops fume and dust extraction systems matched precisely to specific processes - from laser and ink jet coding for food and pharmaceuticals packaging to soldering and welding, laser cutting, engraving, spraying, mixing, and hand and mechanised grinding.
Typically, these systems use active air flow control, a pre-filtration stage, use of a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter and a layer of activated carbon to capture contaminants, with extraction performance increasingly optimised through BOFA’s iQ operating system, which provides independent filter status monitoring and enhanced system diagnostics.
Says John Horsey, technical manager at BOFA: “Fume and dust are the enemy of process-based operations. Not only can airborne emissions present a significant health risk to employees, they can also impact on productivity by causing contamination to finished products and depositing extraneous matter on process-critical components. This can result in costly downtime, and create additional maintenance and remedial cleaning costs.”
For certain hazardous processes there are challenges that go beyond contaminant capture. For example, extraction systems linked to high temperature industrial processes, such as lasers, need to take account of potential fire risks. This is particularly important where a combustible dust can be drawn into the filtration system, so BOFA systems use fire-resistant materials for casings and filters along with triple thermal cut-out protection together with the use of a separate fire detection and extinguishant in line module where necessary.
*UK HSE Labour Force Survey 2016