How can engineering processes be changed to meet air quality regulations?

One of the first steps in improving your air quality should be to look at changing your engineering processes. This is the “low-hanging fruit” that might save you a lot of trouble and expense. For example, it’s possible that cleaning a surface that gets welded or changing your weld wire might significantly reduce your weld fumes, avoiding the need for major ventilation equipment.

There are, in fact, several ways to improve your air quality before you resort to filtration and other such solutions. OSHA has collected some of these methods in their “Hierarchy of Controls,” an easy-to-use guide to adjusting your processes in ways that could solve your air quality problems.

  • The first couple options in OSHA’s list are to remove the hazard or substitute something safer for it. Perhaps the process that produces the contaminant could be replaced with a less toxic process. New materials and processes are changing manufacturing every day, so new options might be on the table. An air quality expert could help you identify these opportunities.
  • The next option is to change your engineering controls to cut or remove a threat to air quality. This includes the aforementioned adjustments in weld wire or shielding gasses, changes that can significantly reduce weld fumes or their toxicity. Changing from stick welding to MIG welding can also produce similar reductions. Isolating the process from workers is another solution. Robotic welding cells, for example, are a major step in protecting workers from direct contact with fumes. This method is also sometimes called “Prevention Through Design” (PtD). Why solve a problem when you can avoid it?
  • Another option is to cut fumes through new housekeeping controls. For example, cleaning the residue on parts that are to be welded can significantly cut weld fumes. These solutions, and many others, are listed in OSHA’s Hierarchy of Controls.

OSHA’s Hierarchy of Controls:
Prevention Through Design:


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