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Pulp and Paper: Improve Employee Health with Dust Control (Part 1)

Posted on February 25, 2013

Paper product manufacturing facilities see their fair share of dust. Over the years, mill workers have complained of respiratory symptoms like chronic cough, chest tightness and wheezing and blame their prolonged exposure to paper dust for these health issues. In 2008, nearly 500 mail industry employees signed a petition blaming their ill health conditions, such as asthma, sore throats, and migraines on exposure to paper fiber generated by sorting machines.

OSHA requires good housekeeping practices in several General Industry Standards including those pertaining to the pulp, paper and paperboard industries. While manufacturers have taken steps towards improving housekeeping, some may not realize that traditional methods such as sweeping can actually create health risks by agitating debris and produce dust clouds, a leading cause of respiratory illness. Some companies have ditched their brooms for more sophisticated tools such as shop-style vacuums. Although these vacuums may seem cost-effective, they are equipped with low-cost, unreliable motors that have the tendency to overheat quickly and are normally short-lived, especially when used to collect fine dust and debris several times a day for a lengthy period of time. High-quality industrial vacuums are equipped with superior motors, specifically designed to handle longer run times and industrial applications.

A solid maintenance plan with a HEPA-filtered industrial vacuum can protect employees from the harmful effects of inhaling paper dust. A vacuum equipped with graduated filtration prevents hazardous dust from becoming airborne. A multi-stage system allows debris to pass through several steps of filtration such as a paper bag, main cloth filter and HEPA filter, with each level acting as a barrier to the next. By the time the particles reach the last stage, the majority of the debris will have been trapped by previous filters.

Features to consider:

  • Industrial vacuums can be customized for specific applications such as machine integration to collect paper scraps at the source of trimming or for multiple simultaneous users.
  • Vacuums equipped with oversized filters will allow the machine to filter more efficiently. The larger the filter, the more space there is to trap particles that would otherwise clog or “blind” the filter, reducing suction and performance. Options like an automatic filter cleaning system can also reduce down time by purging the filter of caked on dust and debris.
  • Overhead cleaning kits comprised of long extension wands and curved nozzles that quickly and easily remove paper dust settled on overhead pipes and other hard-to-reach areas.

Products to consider: S2 or S3, Tool Caddy, T Series, 118

For more information on industrial vacuums for the paper and pulp industries, visit www.nilfiskindustrialvacuums.com.

Check back for part 2 on reducing risk of fires and explosions with proper combustible dust housekeeping!