Woodworking and machine shop dust is a serious health and safety risk. In this article, we'll look at exactly what hazards this problem causes and how to select dust collection systems that will match you or your company's needs. Read on to find out about the different types of dust extraction system and how to estimate the required air flow for your particular situation.
Health and safety risks
Breathing hazard Fine woodworking dust is responsible for many hazards in the workplace. The most obvious problem is that it represents a breathing hazard. Some forms of manufactured boards use formaldehyde-based binders which are in fact a carcinogen, this is of course a huge risk to workers and should be controlled by a dust collector. Dust extraction Airborne fine dust particles can present an explosion hazard and in industries, this risk is taken very seriously. Dust extraction can prevent lying dust from presenting a slip hazard and accumulated dust near electrical outlets can present a fire hazard. With all these potential problems, it is highly recommended to use a dust collector system in your workshop to reduce and eliminate these risks.
What to look for
Audit your power tools
The first stage of the process is to audit your power tools. The higher the flow rate of an extraction system, the more dust you are able to extract. However, the limiting factor is often the size of the extraction ports on the power tools.
The smaller the extraction port, the slower the air flow and extraction power for that particular tool. For hobbyist tools, look for a minimum of 5" diameter duct and for floor standing professional tools, then a port size of 8" or larger is required.
Dust collection unit The next stage is to choose a dust collection unit with a quality filtration system. Cyclone separators, which are essentially large versions of the Dyson vacuum cleaner provide the best extraction system, but like all systems they need filters. HEPA The best quality filters are HEPA but they will cost more than stock filters. These filters will remove not only large particles which you can see around the shop, but also the smaller fine dust particles that can cause long-term chronic breathing problems. When you have identified the type of extraction system that you need, possibly by calling on the advice from a professional from the health and safety executive, you will need to have the unit properly installed. Consider having your dust filtration system interlocked into your machine's operation so that it can be used. The final consideration is one of training. Make sure that all employees are aware of and know how to use the system.