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As an occupational or environmental health and safety (EHS) leader, you manage risks related to employee safety in your workplace. These may include indoor air quality and/or emissions exhausted into the outside environment. You need to keep suspended particulates within allowable limits, and perhaps report compliance to agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
These responsibilities give you a vested interest in the performance of the industrial dust and fume collector in your facility. This equipment is designed to draw in dirty indoor air through a network of hoods and ducts, filter out particulates, and exhaust filtered air.
“Ventilation shall be designed to prevent dispersion into the air of dusts, fumes, mists, vapors, and gases in concentrations causing harmful exposure. The air outlet from every dust separator, and the dusts, fumes, mists, vapors, or gases collected by an exhaust or ventilating system shall discharge to the outside atmosphere. Collecting systems which return air to work area may be used if concentrations which accumulate in the work area air do not result in harmful exposure to employees.”
Dust collectors are sturdy equipment that can operate for years with proper maintenance. But if a filtration system is overlooked, hidden problems can develop that back up dust into the air or escalate into collector downtime.
As an EHS officer, you need to know the equipment is operating effectively, and be alerted when it’s not. You also need to quickly gather current performance data, often differential pressure (DP) data, for mandatory reports. This makes dust collector monitoring an important issue.
Until recently, monitoring a dust collector and gathering its performance data have been manual processes in most facilities. While larger plants may have an automated control network, these systems typically govern only core production equipment, leaving ancillary dust collection outside the digital oversight that EHS officers consider important. Typically, EHS managers have had to work with operations personnel to take manual readings from dust collection equipment gauges.
In an industrial facility, both inadequate or excessive air flow into the dust collector can have consequences EHS professionals care about. Inadequate air flow may be unable to keep up with your process’s dust generation, causing a potential breach of your desired baseline limits. If the collector is unable to pull dust all the way through to the hopper, the dust can settle inside the ductwork or in the facility. This accumulation of dust can act as additional fuel in the event of a fire.
Excessive airflow may also increase fire risks. For example, sparks from your process can be pulled through the ducts to the dust collector, where dust can provide a fuel source. Other unintended consequences of excessive airflow include premature filter wear or even loss of valuable ingredients in your process.
Just as in particulate trend sensing, the iCue™ service provides a relative airflow reading. Once your facility has determined a designed airflow for your facility’s dust control needs, deviations greater than 10% up or down from the baseline may indicate a dust collector problem that needs addressing.
Trends in airflow can also help identify a problem with duct design. If airflow is consistently below the designed airflow, the duct network or fan size may need adjusting. Sometimes facilities expand and tie an additional workstation into an existing collector, weakening airflow. If your facility is undergoing a remodel, have an expert in dust collection help you keep the airflow balanced, then monitor the system with the iCue™ service. Fluctuations in air velocity can prompt qualified personnel to rebalance your air filtration system.
These three indicators—differential pressure, particulate trends, and airflow trends—are of direct importance to EHS leaders for tracking and reporting. However, optimal dust collector management may also be a concern you share with colleagues in facility engineering and maintenance. For your common benefit, additional sensors are available to augment the iCue™ connected filtration service, specifically to monitor hopper plugs, bin level, compressed air feed, and humidity. Continuously monitoring these indicators can help flag problems early, help manage total cost of ownership for the dust collector and drive additional return on investment for the iCue™ service.
Factories invest in Industrial Hygiene and Dust Hazard Analysis work to set dust collection baselines and achieve their appropriate regulatory limits. Maintaining ongoing visibility to deviations from these baselines can minimize hazards and/or fines.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology, like the iCue™ service, can be an ally in managing these efficiently. It can enable you to track key information automatically and share the information directly to the people that can respond and correct issues. As you manage the many potential risks in your organization, the iCue™ connected filtration service helps you with visibility and insights in an effective and efficient way.