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Dust – consider a centralised solution

03 June 2014

Despite the impact of dust, many people are not aware of just how serious or how important and issue it is. Not only do they underestimate its seriousness, they fail to appreciate how tackling the problems caused by dust can both improve business turnover, and provide a ‘greener’ way of working, says James Miller of Dustcontrol.

The negatives of industrial dust are many fold. It creates a dirty working environment, hinders production efficiency, lowers staff morale, affects product quality and provides a health and safety risk.

If you walk into a food processing plant, in many cases you are likely to see an abundance of cheap mobile dust extractors. The fact that an attempt is being made to rectify dust-related issues is certainly a positive. But it is often the case that in large processing plants these can become more of a nuisance as opposed to providing any real assistance in resolving the matter.

The mobile dust extractors used in these instances are often fitted with low quality filtration and are poorly maintained, as personnel are unwilling to take responsibility for keeping them clean and ensuring that they are looked after. It is also more than likely that they constitute a health and safety risk, with leads and cables stretching across the production area. There is also often a lack of understanding on just how these extractors should be used, with many companies opting to use them after processing rather than during. Mobile dust extractors might seem like an attractive short-term solution to workplace dust and the balance sheet, but they usually fail to achieve the desired results with running costs actually making them more detrimental in the longer term.

The best way for food processing plants to address the issue of dust is to install centralised vacuum systems. These can fit into the building in question, and have a number of plug-in points running off them, avoiding the need for messy leads running everywhere. The systems can run for 24 hours, and are even self-cleaning. Lease finance for this type of equipment is becoming a much more common way of avoiding large Capex sign off and helping to manage cash flow.

Central vacuum systems are also energy efficient. Depending on the number of open outlets, the RPM of the vacuum producer can be optimised generating just as much vacuum as needed. When when no outlets are open the vacuum automatically switches to a saving mode, thus reducing both carbon emissions and running costs. 

A centralised vacuum system can help solve any ‘product loss’ issues - where what’s coming out at the end of the production line is less than what’s being put in at the start. The systems can show visibly what they’ve collected during the process, so if there are still serious ‘product loss’ issues these can be backed up with accurate data. 

Centralised benefits
The benefits of a centralised vacuum system are many. Working in a cleaner environment will improve staff morale and reduce the risk of potential health issues for employees. 
It is also important to consider that many dusts are combustible. When a material is suspended in the air in a finely divided form, in the right concentration and in the right conditions, explosions can occur. Foodstuffs such as sugar, spice, starch, flour, feed and grain are among the materials that are most dangerous in the workplace. It’s therefore imperative to reduce the risks posed in an environment where these materials are both in abundance and being processed in a way that causes dust to form. 
Dust extraction will help to improve product quality as it removes dust from both the product and its associated packaging, while reducing the need for maintenance, which allows valuable resources to be spent elsewhere.

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