According to statistics from the HSE, around 12,000 people in the UK die from dust inhalation related to exposure in the workplace every year and hazardous industries need to improve the working environment. While regulation is being tightened to improve working conditions, it is also the threat of legal claims that is focusing attention for managers, board members and shareholders alike.
Safety regulation across the globe has become ever more stringent as authorities have recognised the dangers associated with working in hazardous dusty environments. From mining to tunnelling and manufacturing, hundreds of thousands of individuals are working every day in high dust environments, and therefore at risk of inhaling potential health damaging toxins.
The problem is escalating, with new technologies being introduced in many hazardous industries opening new opportunities but also creating the risk of significantly more dust.
Such exposure can be insidious, workers are often unaware of any health issues until many years after the fact, as the raft of new legal claims facing companies every year attests.
One industry that is particularly fraught with danger is the pigments industry. Some of the particulates and additives that are used within the pigment industry are quite hazardous to health just by the nature of the particulates. The sector often makes use of crystalline silica in the process.
Crystalline silica has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. Additionally, breathing crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, which in severe cases can be disabling, or even fatal. The respirable silica dust enters the lungs and causes the formation of scar tissue, thus reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. There is no cure for silicosis.
The list of sectors that face the danger of dust and particulates is long. Some examples are quarrying, with dust generated both by movement of heavy machinery, crushing equipment and blasting activities.
The other ones that we are talking about are the metals industry. The metal processing industry that produces high levels of fumes in the smelting process, which can contain both harmful chemicals and particulates. The production of aggregates and bricks is in there as well. Both the manufacture and recycling of bricks because of their high silicate content.
Until now the protection provided to workers in these industries was limited to monitoring for one size of particulate, which is a far from optimum approach. One of the main issues is that the focus is on respirable dust. Many companies are concentrating on a certain size of particle within the total composition of the dust, usually PM4.25. The problem is that a large part of the dust that is being generated is less than PM4.25 and the monitoring equipment that is being used to protect the workforce from respirable dust might not be good enough.
Until recently the right air quality and dust suppression technology has not been around to monitor a range of sizes of particles, at least not continuously and in real time. Through the development of the world’s most advanced particulate sensor technology and through supporting the deployment of sophisticated air quality and dust suppression systems, the mission at Trolex is to contribute to the reduction and eventual elimination of deaths and diseases related to dust inhalation in the workplace.
The solution is real-time, highly accurate continuous dust and particulate monitoring that requires no pumps or filters and utilises a completely new type of dust sensing technology. The particulate monitoring sensors can operate independently as warning devices, or as part of a dust-suppression-on-demand system, facilitating a smart system of worker protection and deployment of dust-suppression collateral.
In addition, the dust and particulate monitoring systems can be combined with a wide range of wireless, portable and transportable gas detection packages, as well as machine, pump, ventilation and general condition and environmental monitoring systems to give you a complete safety and efficiency control scenario.
In tests the unit performed as well as highly accurate laboratory analysis equipment in detecting respirable dust in the atmosphere. However, the new technology does not just perform in the lab, it has also demonstrated its accuracy and durability in the field, in challenging applications.
One of the strengths of this product is that compared to a lot of competing technologies it is very flexible and does not just see one type of dust or one size of a particle. In the past a unit would be set up to see a particle of a certain size and if that size particle was not present it would declare the environment safe, in effect a false reading.
New filterless optical particulate counters (OPC) on the other hand can detect particulate sizes between 0.38 μm and 17.5 μm and can sort these particulates using a patented algorithm.
OPCs which rely on filters also have limitations in that they can only let in particulates of a particular size - in effect limiting them to monitoring for only one size particulate and increasing the costs of any operation looking to monitor for multiple particulate sizes.
This new device - which does not rely on a filter - can monitor multiple measurements at once, not only ensuring improved safety but doing so without inflated costs.
It is completely dynamic in its range. You can monitor for a single size if that is what you want to do but equally, you can monitor right across the full breadth of the range of particles and you can define the different sizes of bins. We can do PM1, 2.5, 4.25 and 10 or we can do some post analysis by just looking at one bin.
With immediate visibility of the quality of the environment, an organisation can embark upon proactive strategies to improve air quality and dust suppression as and when required to create a safe working environment. This is the type of protection that industry needs and deserves.
Find out all you need to know about respirable dust and how you can establish a more robust, reliable and real-time monitoring solution to tackle the invisible killer by downloading our eBook: