Dust: can’t see it, don’t breathe it

Bill Halbert, of dust control specialist Donaldson Australasia, explains why dust shouldn't be viewed as just a 'symptom' of any bulk handling process.

Bill Halbert, of dust control specialist Donaldson Australasia, explains why dust shouldn’t be viewed as just a ‘symptom’ of any bulk handling process.

PERHAPS it is merely due to the word ‘bulk’ in bulk materials handling that conjures an image off enormous items.

Always a logistically challenging arena, it encompasses every industrial sector and the efficient management of processes can make a telling difference in productivity rates and the safety of people involved.

Yet often, in the course of planning and commissioning an integrated bulk materials handling system, the common mental picture is of huge stock items on full pallets in warehouses, lengthy conveyor systems carrying non-uniform sized pieces towards drop points, fully laden trucks, and various systems of automation

Basically, companies think of solutions to handle all this massive stock, yet often overlook the common problem of the generated dust.

Whether it is a grain handling facility, coal loading plant, food processing operation, ship unloading, or any other bulk handling application, more often than not a fine dust is a by-product of the process.

According to Bill Halbert, Australia group manager with dust control specialist Donaldson Australasia, companies often view dust as a ‘symptom’ of their process.

“Basically, what is encountered is another, ‘unplanned’, bulk materials handling issue that sneaks up on them and has the potential to cause not only operating problems but also – as we have seen in recent years – potentially harmful workplace conditions that can bring disastrous consequences to staff,” said Halbert.

“But the clever operators treat the potential causes first and avoid problems later on.

“When planning any type of high volume materials handling system, there are normally quite a few problem sources that require some analysis to understand their potential to cause dust problems in particular.

“Of prime importance when solids are being handled are conveyor transfer points, hoppers, bulk bag rooms, even loading depots exposed to the outdoors.

“Outside the premises it may be a pristine river, a public space, a market garden or even a primary school, so dust containment becomes just as important as the process of dust extraction.”

As a specialist company in the dust extraction business, Donaldson Torit-DCE has been instrumental in keeping companies in line with Work-Cover regulations on dust control in the workplace.

Halbert considers the following as key issues that are often overlooked: WorkCover Authorities have identified dust as one of the most common reasons for compensation claims.

Many man-hours are spent cleaning dust fall out which is best collected before it becomes a problem.

Setting up a dedicated, efficient dust control system actually becomes an asset to the business rather than a cost.

Diversified operations can suffer cross contamination through uncontained dust.

“Dust needs to be properly assessed in every situation as there are many variances to its effective collection, including particle size and shape, abrasiveness, and mass, hence different solutions are required.”

With the correctly engineered solution, what is gained is a dust containment and collection system that ensures personnel do not become exposed to the danger of dust inhalation, product integrity is maintained, and the surrounding environment does not suffer.


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