No matter the industry, dust collection is critical to a facility’s operations. These systems allow businesses to comply with stringent standards and protect the safety of employees, their assets and often their neighborhoods. But when deciding which dust collector to purchase, too often the decision is weighted almost entirely on price.

However, by taking a more holistic approach to selecting the right dust collection system for an application, companies can mitigate risk, reduce their operating costs, and realize several bottom line benefits.

What are the risks associated with dust collection?

Industrial dust comes with many inherent risks – increased scrap, dirty plants, pollution, workplace safety – and it’s important to understand how these risks can impact company performance and growth. When evaluating the dust collection system that is right for your plant, take into consideration the following factors:

  • Explosion or combustion
  • Workplace safety
  • Community impact
  • Production inefficiencies
  • Product quality
  • Brand reputation
  • Installation requirements

The consequences of these risks have significant bottom-line impacts. Yet, common misconceptions often get in the way of good decisions. Simply put, you can decrease many types of risk throughout your process when you consider the real business impact that uncontrolled hazardous and nuisance dust can present.

Common misconceptions about risk and dust collectors

Myth #1: It’s just dust.

All dust is not created equal. Therefore, you must know your dust to know which dust collection system is right for your application. While dust is a common pollutant that many are familiar with, hazardous and nuisance dust released into the environment can cause serious issues in employee safety, air pollution, community safety, and more. Unfortunately, many companies are unaware of the real composition of their dust.

Myth #2: The only people affected by dust are my employees.

Employee safety should top the list of priorities when purchasing a dust collector, but regardless of whether your operation is inside or outside, dust isn’t only confined to your plant’s property. Surrounding businesses and communities are impacted by dust emissions from your plant. You have the opportunity to set the standard of environmental stewardship and be a good neighbor. Additionally, the impact of dust on your product quality, scrap rates and material costs are important considerations.

Myth #3: Dust collectors are just an expense.

Dust impacts more than your facility investment. The wrong upfront investment in the improper size, filter, airflow or setup can lead to costly risks down the road. Conversely, the right upfront investment can have a positive impact on your bottom line through:

  • Increased production efficiencies
  • Decreased waste
  • Minimized risk
  • Healthier, safer work environments

Let’s look more closely and demystify these myths.

Myth #1: It’s just dust.

Understanding Risk: Combustible Dust

Nothing is more important than knowing your dust – your material, how it performs, its interactions, and how it behaves when collected. Given the volatile nature of many types of seemingly harmless dust – including rice, coal, or plastic – understanding your material can prevent long-term harm.

Combustible dust presents a real risk to companies in any processing or manufacturing industry. In fact, according to findings released by DustEx Research in its 2019 Mid-Year Combustible Dust Incident Report, there were 104 fires and 34 explosions that occurred globally between January and June of 2019. Of these incidents, 60% of the materials involved were wood or food products.

These incidents can come with tragic loss or harm to employees and other long-term financial consequences – including lawsuits, production shutdowns, added costs in cleanup and fines, and damaged reputations. In many cases, they could have been avoided with the proper dust collection system.

Myth #2: The only people affected by dust are my employees.

Understanding Risk: Workplace Safety

Beyond costly risk of explosion or combustion, purchasing a collector that is not engineered to your application can also present basic health and safety risks for your employees and your communities. Employees are impacted in many ways:

  • Whether your dust is innately visible or not, all dust presents the risk of inhalation that can impact a worker’s lungs, heart, respiratory system and more.
  • Long-term impacts of exposure to certain chemicals can often be unknown.
  • Heavy-duty protective gear and equipment can keep employees safe, but limits their comfort, mobility and basic ability to hear and see what is going on.
  • From a maintenance perspective, dust can settle onto floors, machinery, workspaces and more, impacting machine performance, increasing risk of falls and limiting visibility.

In working with manufacturers with a range of processes, we know the absolute importance of holistically evaluating an application to customize a complete dust collection system. We’re able to help companies protect employees while keeping businesses compliant with OSHA, avoiding fines and minimizing additional investments in protective measures.

Understanding Risk: Community Impact

One of the biggest risks associated with dust collection is the impact of escaped emissions on the community. While this dust is highly visible in applications in the ready mix and cement industries, it’s also very prevalent in other less visible processes like plastics manufacturing.

Facing the need to capture, collect, and control dust, we’ve worked with companies – like plastics manufacturers – to properly select and size the right technology for their specific operation that ensure all emissions are contained and properly recycled or disposed. Regardless of the size of the dust, the right collector will protect plants while keeping dust away from your neighbors.

In these situations, the right dust collection system is critical in avoiding harm to surrounding communities, which can lead to fines from the EPA, from cities, and calls for your operations to be shut down. These conversations can negatively impact your bottom line, your reputation, and your relationship with your neighbors.

Myth #3: Dust collectors are just an expense.

Understanding Risk: Production Inefficiencies

Far from just an expense, dust collectors can have a critical impact on your production downtime. Going with an initial low-cost solution can lead to high long-term investments when evaluating total cost of ownership (TCO). While the low-cost option may meet your initial budget, it may not meet the specific needs of your facility.

If your collector is improperly sized, you can experience serious inefficiencies that impact production and increase your operating costs. Absent a dust collection system engineered to your specific application, you could have issues with the dust within the collector itself, or in plant-wide issues including escaped dust infiltrating bearings of other equipment causing breakdowns or clogging the facility’s air filters.

Additionally, a properly engineered system can capture and recycle the collected material, allowing it to be put back into the process or sold. This process drives efficiencies by eliminating unnecessary scrap, decreasing material costs and avoiding costly hauling and salvage processes.

A focus on maintenance is critical to ensure that your dust collection system maintains a high level of performance. Properly maintaining your filters, ducting and other components will help eliminate escaped emissions or lasting downtime. An improperly sized or maintained collector can hurt your ability to keep your plant up and running under EPA and OSHA regulations.

Understanding Risk: Product Impact

Beyond safety, dust in your facility may significantly impact your product quality or integrity, impacting overall product sales and your brand reputation. Dust collection can be critical in protecting product integrity and consumer safety. For food manufacturers, dust collection is critical to preventing cross-contamination that could potentially harm individuals with food allergies and sensitivities. For product manufacturers, ensuring that dust is contained within your process can improve the overall appearance and quality of your product, and eliminate costly wasted product. A negative impact on your product quality or appearance can lead to decreased sales, abandonment of brand loyalists and a negative public perception of your product.

Putting Learning into Action: Key Takeaways

Once you understand the impact that the wrong collector can have on your bottom line, it’s important to put a plan in place to avoid risk and protect your business.

  • Know your dust. Knowing your dust will help you make informed decisions about the right collector for your facility. Understanding your material firsthand, or working with someone who does, will set your process off on the right foot and protect your employees, your assets and the environment.
  • Purchase the proper dust collection system for your application. Every application is unique, and your dust collector should be, too. Your system must be balanced, ensuring pickup points are properly located across your facility – not just near the collector. You must also understand the right cubic feet per minute (CFM) calculation, filter media and sizing for your facility. An out-of-the-box solution will rarely suit all of your dust collection needs.
  • Invest in ongoing maintenance. Dust collection is not just an ongoing expense. It’s an investment that should produce a return and benefit your bottom line. Regular investments in maintenance and proper operation ensure that your facility stays up and running and you protect what matters most.

Overall, the risks associated with dust in your operation are well documented and well-known. For decisions makers, it’s critical to take a holistic look at these risks, understanding how an engineered solution will most positively impact your company’s bottom line.

©2020 C&W Environmental Solutions

We Know Dust Collection Systems! Questions about how your dust may be impacting your manufacturing process? Contact us at (800) 792-7427 or Info@GulfAtlanticEquipment to see how we can help.