Clearing the air on OSHA indoor air quality
OSHA and other environmental watch dogs don’t officially regulate indoor air quality (IAQ), but most manufacturers follow best practices when it comes to their indoor work environments, because they understand the ROI benefits of less downtime and improved productivity. Additionally, while OSHA does not currently enforce IAQ standards, all employers, including manufacturers, are expected to identify and eliminate potential indoor air quality hazards that could lead to serious injury per the OSHAct.
OSHA does offer indoor air quality guidelines for commercial and institutional buildings, including steps to address the most common IAQ hazard potentials, such as improperly operated and maintained heating, ventilation systems, or air-conditioning (HVAC) units.
These guidelines emphasize contaminated indoor air as a critical safety issue, but OSHA does not offer a single test to identify poor indoor air quality. Ultimately, it’s up to the manufacturer to set their own standards for how they improve indoor air quality in manufacturing operations.
Mitigating Indoor Air Quality Hazards with Industrial Air Filtration
Fortunately, indoor air filtration can help eliminate IAQ threats to workplace safety and ensure compliance with key OSHA and environmental regulations surrounding fabrication projects such as blasting, grinding, painting, or welding. Indoor air filtration technology is particularly useful for dealing with potentially harmful air particulates from welding, including:
- Lead oxide
- Iron oxide
- Nickel oxide
- Beryllium oxide
- Chrome VI compounds
- Thorium oxide
- Gaseous substances, such as phosgene, ozone, carbon monoxide/dioxide, nitrogen oxide, formaldehyde, and prussic acid
Additionally, non-vented air recycling filtration solutions can capture 100% of airborne particles and keep chemical gases well within compliance standard levels, without huge capital expenditures like expensive ductwork and permitting fees.
Modular Air Filtration for Cost-Effective IAQ
Ensuring proper indoor air quality presents a host of logistical and overhead challenges for manufacturers, including:
- Common PPE equipment can be cumbersome for employees and inhibit productivity.
- Fume hoods and extraction systems may protect against fumes and airborne particulates, but they often fall short of creating a clean and healthy facility.
- Messy tasks like blasting concrete can be especially challenging to controlling IAQ, as dust settles on almost every surface and is easily disturbed (airborne).
- Installing facility-wide air filtration may not be economically feasible for large-scale manufacturing projects that require retractable roofs for overhead cranes.
- Moving large fabrication projects to clean rooms for welding or spraying involves costly man hours and material handling, not to mention the risk of potential damage.
Modular air filtration is flexible and can work as a cost-effective IAQ tool for defense contractors or other manufacturers that work with large-scale projects like MRAPs, submarine propulsion systems, or jets. Utilizing innovative, modular air filtration and retractable enclosures allows OEMs to:
- Bring clean air to the job, rather than reconstructing workspaces around the workpiece.
- Reduce material handling bottlenecks and workspace redesigns normally required for rapid project modifications.
- Enable employees to quickly inventory and prioritize interchangeable parts and varied bills of material.
- Set up temporary maintenance locations and keep grinding, painting, or sanding assignments on schedule.
- Keep entire projects in-house for more comprehensive quality control throughout manufacturing and maintenance processes.
Meeting IAQ Responsibilities While Increasing ROI
With the availability of affordable, modular air filtration solutions, fabricators and manufacturers are empowered to go above and beyond their OSHA and environmental obligations for IAQ, including:
- OSHA regulations for potentially combustible dust, spray operations, and other indoor construction projects
- EPA requirements for spray finishing
- NFPA standards for dry chemical extinguishing systems and spray applications using flammable or combustible materials
- U.S. and Canada UL standards for measuring and validating performance, environmental health, and sustainability
Additionally, manufacturers and fabricators are integrating these flexible air filtration systems to work with their existing safety protocols to eliminate unnecessary PPE purchases, reduce downtime, and improve productivity.
Modular air filtration is an affordable option for improving your facility’s indoor air quality to ensure you’re meeting your EHS compliance obligations while achieving bottom-line improvements.