Workstations create hazardous goods that are hard to spot
Australian companies have made immense strides in handling hazardous goods in the workplace, particularly in factories and processing plants which, compared to today’s high standards, really do have a chequered history in decades gone by.
But as is always the case, nothing is yet perfect. It is all too hard to see dangers at the best of times – yet sometimes these can be invisible and it is this type of problem that has the potential to inflict the most damaging and often disastrous consequences.
At workstation points across all manufacturing industries, it is airborne particles that need special attention as far as handling and removal goes. Ducting specialist Eximo, has been very involved in trying to root out problems of this nature. The company’s Sales Manager for the Asia-Pacific region, Mr Morris Short, says it is amazing how problematic fine mist can be without appropriate attention to the handling side of things.
“By world standards, Australian manufacturing is very safe in the knowledge our companies take special effort to ensure complete removal of gases, dusts and other fines which are extremely hard to spot with the naked eye,” said Mr Short.
“As good as we are in the industrialised world, workplace injury and compensation statistics suggest that we are still a long way from being perfect, so perhaps more attention needs to be given to the handling of this invisible potential disease maker.”
If the most recent statistical bulletin from WorkCover NSW can be taken into account, in the manufacturing industry alone the number of injuries over a 12 month period was 9,144 – representing 31.4% of all workplace injuries in this state of Australia alone. Figures do vary across the states, but the reality is dangerous goods that are difficult to see cause a lot of damage and represented a large portion of the $200 million compensation payout in New South Wales manufacturing for that year.
One of the more insidious culprits has to be welding fumes. Many manufacturing businesses do have a welding component performed in open welding bays. Although welding helmets do their task, it is harder to take guard against fumes; hence Eximo has been campaigning strongly for proper and safe removal of this highly toxic gas.
“The models we have looked at are those in Europe and North America used by multinational automotive manufacturers to safely and conveniently remove welding fumes from their robotised welding stations.
“It is why we brought WeldFlex PVC coated polyester fabric ducting to the market. It not only facilitates the removal of toxic welding fumes; it is also perfectly suitable for air conditioning systems, the suction of air and the removal of light dusts in most industries.
“It safeguards people working in steel fabrication plants, auto workshops, boiler making operations, OEM plants, absolutely anything that requires even the slightest bit of welding.”
Solid particles can be almost invisible as well, according to Mr Short, which could lead to all sorts of lung problems including silicosis.
Grinding, cutting, sawing, sanding – these are just some of the many processes that create dusts and fines that required nothing less than instant removal and capture from the workspace before they can be breathed in. Facial apparatus helps to some extent, but dusts must be removed as quickly as possible from the entire workplace into a safe containment unit.
Often, workplace managers overlook this factor which in turn creates an extremely dangerous by-product in the working atmosphere. “There is one big production sector that tends to overlook this type of danger purely because there is so much activity going on,” said Mr Short.
“The food processing industries handle grains, powders, fine crystals and other solids, which can become airborne and end up in the lungs of workers,”
“We’ve found a lot of workpoints in food processing plants where flavours and other dry ingredients are being mixed or dropped into hoppers, and although this section might be screened off it may not have an adequate ducting system to take the potential problem away from the worker and contain it.
“For this type of scenario we developed FoodFlex which contains an organic compound that is resistant to mould, fungus microbes and hydrolysis, so it carries a food-hygiene rating so there should be no excuse for using half-measures.”
As this quality is built into the product, it continues to perform even as the wall deteriorates during constant use, unlike some other market products that have a simple coating of inhibitors.
Various properties provide the product with a long life. For starters, rather than just being resistant to hydrolysis and microbes, FoodFlex has a very solid construction with good oil resistance, excellent and abrasion resistance and a smooth bore.
“Overall, Australian manufacturing businesses have to keep reminding themselves that hazardous goods aren’t just those that have a big caution sticker on their packaging,” said Mr Short.
“More often than not, it is not just products that we can’t see, but also those which we view as perfectly safe because they used for food. They could cause harmful air-borne effects if not handled in the correct manner.
“The positive development is that Australian companies are quickly and efficiently improving work practices to handle these invisible dangers properly, and one would expect the huge level of compensation payouts to gradually decrease.”
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