Automotive manufacturing entails many processes that produce serious air quality concerns. Whether the source is a cutting table or a robotic welding cell, dust and fumes are a problem for worker health, plant cleanliness and regulatory compliance.
Many dusts and fumes in the automotive industry contain toxic metals that constitute a serious danger to workers. The extreme heat involved in welding creates fumes with metal particulates less than a micrometer in diameter. The smaller the particulate the easier it is inhaled and absorbed into the body. Toxic particulates such as hexavalent chromium can travel in these fumes. Exposure to this substance is known to cause cancer and other serious health problems. Without a comprehensive dust and weld fume control system in place, workers are at risk throughout an entire facility.
Dust in automotive manufacturing can produce a fire hazard, as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fires and explosions account for about 3% of workplace fatalities. Because sparks, flames and combustible dust are an inherent part of the metalworking process, manufacturers must address this danger. A high quality dust collection system can stop fires before they start with a spark arrestance system.
Besides ensuring worker health, manufacturers must think about worker retention. The American Welding Society estimates that manufacturing will see a shortfall of 290,000 skilled welders by 2020. This, combined with an upswing in U.S. manufacturing, means that recruiting and retaining workers is more challenging and more important than ever. A healthy, clean and attractive workplace free from haze and hazards is crucial.
Regulatory compliance is another reason for automotive manufacturers to invest in industrial air filtration. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates the quality of the air that workers breathe. Manufacturers must comply with OSHA’s “General Duty Clause” to provide a workplace that is safe and healthy. Welding facilities, in particular, must comply with air contaminant requirements that address permissible exposure levels (PELs) for specific toxic substances, such as manganese and hexavalent chromium.