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Keeping it dust-free with Conquest


Conquest explains to MHD why keeping industrial environments clean and dust-free is paramount when dealing with workers’ health and safety and how its solutions can help.

Maintaining clean and dust-free environments within large commercial and industrial spaces is critical. And not just for facility presentation. A dust-free environment plays a crucial role in helping you comply with work health and safety standards and keeping your team safe and well.

Risks posed by airborne dust within these types of workplaces are alarming. Staff can inhale these airborne particles, which can lead to respiratory illnesses or aggravate existing conditions.

The hidden hazards of dust in the workplace

Industrial dust can originate from a range of sources. It’s generated as a by-product of material handling and manufacturing processes, which can include cutting, grinding, drilling, sanding, crushing, or handling materials like metals, minerals, grains, and chemicals. As these materials are manipulated, they break down into smaller particles that become suspended in the air, forming industrial dust.

The even more hazardous silica dust

Silica dust, also known as crystalline silica, is a type of airborne particulate matter composed of microscopic crystalline particles of silicon dioxide. It’s a common mineral found in many natural materials.

Silica dust becomes a significant concern when it’s generated and becomes airborne during industrial processes and construction activities. When inhaled, these tiny particles can pose serious health risks to anyone exposed to the contaminated air.

Crystalline silica is found widely in building products because of its many beneficial properties—strength, durability, and heat resistance. While these products contribute to the stability and longevity of structures, they can also generate hazardous silica dust.

During activities like cutting, grinding, drilling or crushing materials like bricks, blocks, pavers, tiles, mortar, concrete, cement-based products, and natural materials like rock, sand, and clay, these materials are manipulated or disturbed, and they release fine particles into the air, creating dust.

While careful handling, proper protective equipment (PPE) and appropriate ventilation are crucial to minimise exposure and mitigate the associated health risks, wet cleaning goes far beyond dry sweeping to help manage industrial and silica dust in the workplace.

The need for dust control

Dust control is essential for maintaining indoor air quality and preventing the accumulation of pollutants that can compromise the health and well-being of workers and visitors. An unhealthy workplace can lead to staff absenteeism and reduced efficiency. And we all know how hard it is to find temporary staff in today’s environment.

Airborne dust particles can cause respiratory irritation, asthma, and long-term illnesses such as silicosis, pneumoconiosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), all of which affect the lungs.

Dust control is also necessary for upholding environmental and community responsibilities. Controlling dust emissions will minimise the impact on air quality in nearby areas.

Dust accumulation on machinery and equipment can impair their performance, leading to breakdowns, costly repairs and excessive downtime. Forklift tires can slip on dusty surfaces, creating a hazardous environment.

Food production must tackle dust to prevent contamination, meet hygiene standards, pass audits, and uphold supply contracts.

Dust presence can also pose a fire hazard if the dust is the combustible type and can ignite under certain conditions.

And beyond these health, safety and productivity concerns, effective dust control helps improve the overall presentation of the premises.

How dry sweeping increases health risks for workers

The ever-vigilant Environment Protection Authority (EPA) are increasing their focus on ensuring adherence to regulations in dust elimination and control. Complaints are thoroughly investigated, and if companies are found to be failing to control silica dust, therefore putting the health and safety of workers at risk, they can be sanctioned with heavy fines and issued with enforceable warnings leading to site closure if unresolved.

The safest way to clean up dusty sites that may contain silica dust is by dampening the dust to prevent it from becoming airborne by using a wet sweeping process, rather than dry sweeping. Standard sweeping can stir up invisible clouds of dust, causing hazardous conditions for workers.

Type M and Type H filters incorporated in vacuums used for sweepers have been a common way to manage dust. But the finer the filter, the quicker it becomes blocked by dust particles, which makes it inefficient. The blocked filter then stirs up more dust during operation, endangering operators and anyone else in the vicinity, effectively transforming sweepers into dust distributors.

Breathe easier: tackling dust hazards with wet sweeping

To control industrial dust, especially the hazardous silica dust, the most effective and comprehensive solution lies in wet sweeping.

Unlike dry methods, wet sweeping doesn’t rely solely on filtering airborne particles. Instead, it prevents particles from becoming airborne in the first place. By applying water, the dust becomes a mud-like liquid. Subsequent extraction using powerful suction and squeegees ensures the dust is thoroughly removed without dispersing it into the air.

This shift in focus from filtering to controlling dust is especially critical considering the unique risks posed by silica dust. Even vacuums equipped with HEPA filters, which are currently promoted for their safety benefits, will quickly become clogged with small particle matter if not frequently maintained. This makes wet sweeping the most efficient and convenient choice for large spaces.

The innovation of floor cleaners like the Conquest CC1200 and HD 46TCfurther strengthen the argument for a wet sweeping solution, as both machines are adept at wet sweeping and scrubbing in a single pass. This method of dust removal represents not just a compliance measure, but an effective way to protect the health of staff, the environment, the community and provide operational efficiency.

Another advantage of using a combination floor cleaner such as the CC1200 for wet sweeping, is that they promote efficiency over large areas by sweeping, scrubbing and drying in one single pass. This saves you time on your cleaning processes, and also reduces labour costs.

Post-clean waste disposal is safer and more efficient with wet sweeping cleaning machines, as the waste is solidified in liquid form and therefore will not become airborne upon emptying into a waste receptacle.

Reducing the risks of industrial dust with wet sweeping as the ultimate remedy

By maintaining a clean and dust-controlled workplace with wet sweeping, you’ll not only promote operational continuity, minimise maintenance expenses, and adhere to regulatory standards, you’ll also protect the health and safety of your staff and visitors to your premises. Your commitment to cleanliness in your workplace translates to a commitment to the well-being of your team.

For more information on Conquest Equipment, click here

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