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Woodshop Dust Collection for Businesses

August 18, 2016

Combustible dust is extremely common in the wood industry, as wood dusts are very often combustible and flammable and present explosion hazards in the right volume. Any volume of wood dust can also cause both respiratory and skin concerns for workers. For this reason, both the NFPA and OSHA have put together standards requiring workplaces with wood dusts to participate in dust collection and management to ensure that workers are as safe as possible. While many people assume that dust collection is only a concern for very large industries, combustible dust and wood dust irritation is a concern for any business that works with wood, no matter the size.  

However, while you know that you have to comply with OSHA and NFPA wood dust regulations, you can save money on compliance by choosing the right materials, making smart decisions, and choosing the right dust collection system.

Wood Dust Collection

Wood dust is created by moving or spinning machine parts and is created in high volume by wood sanders, shapers, band saws, and other similar devices. Sanders and shapers create very fine dust, which causes problems because it is more difficult to collect and easier to breathe in. This means that you need at least six elements in your dust collection system:

  • Exhaust hoods for each individual machine
  • Ducts to transport dust to a collection point
  • Fans and motors to move dust
  • A dust collector to separate dust from the air
  • Air purifiers to remove fine dust particles from the air
  • Filters to collect dust

For wood dust collection it is important to keep a few things in mind. The first is that dust is primarily emitted at the woodworking equipment. For this reason, the most effective way to capture dust is to use an exhaust hood as close to the equipment as-is possible. Some modern equipment includes its own exhaust hood, which allows you to connect it to your existing dust collection system.

Purchasing the Right Equipment – Where possible, you can save on installation costs by purchasing new equipment (as-is needed) with exhaust vents built in. This will save you from the cost of having to install the exhaust hoods. However, when you already have equipment and do not have to replace it, it is more cost effective to install exhaust hoods separately.

  • Filters – Choosing the right filters allows you to cut costs by reducing wear and tear on equipment, ensuring that you are removing all of the dust, and reducing the number of air purifiers you might need. 20 years ago, most dust collection was done using rough bags that allowed fine dust to escape to create more hazards. Today, you can choose much better filters that are capable of trapping dust of 10 microns in size. Here, pleated filters are your most cost effective and most effective option? Why? They can pack up to hundreds of square feet of filter into a small canister, which offers very fine filtration without stopping air flow. This saves you on electricity and on filtration. But, to use one, you'll have to choose a dust collector or vacuum system that uses a pleated filter.
  • Dust Collector – Your dust collection system should be able to collect dust for your entire area, should have enough ducts to access everything on the work floor, and should be able to maintain air pressure at the farthest ends of the workplace. The dust collector itself can be one of a number of different models that might vary a great deal depending on your shop setup. Here, you should get advice from a professional to help you choose the best system for your needs. Most woodworking systems benefit from using a cyclone dry dust collection system that separates dust by removing large particles and wood chips in a centrifuge before the small dust is trapped by a filter. This can help you to reduce costs by reducing the amount of dust that goes into the filter. Most cyclone dust systems are also cost competitive with other types of collection systems. However, you may be better off with a wet dust collection system, which will allow you to trap finer dusts. Wet dust collection systems use recyclable liquid instead of a centrifuge to filter out even very fine dusts produced by sanders and shapers, which can help you to greatly reduce costs as well.

Improve Maintenance – A good maintenance system can save you money, improve the efficiency of the system, and ensure that you won't have to replace the system as often. This means planning the system to ensure that it is easy to access and maintain. Good examples include creating access points as part of your system, using screws to secure duct portions so that they can be easily taken apart to remove blockages, and creating a system of cleaning and maintenance.

Inspecting the system on a monthly basis can prevent problems and will ensure that the system remains in good condition:

  • Inspect ducts to ensure that they are not loose, broken, or damaged.
  • Check belt-driven exhaust fans for V-belt slippage or breakage.
  • Make sure that the dust velocity is maintained at the farthest reach of the system to prevent dust from plugging the system.

Maintaining and keeping a quality dust collection system will help you to cut costs on electrical usage, repairs, damage, and on the cost of fire suppression and other issues. However, your primary goal for your dust collection system should be to ensure that your workers are as safe as possible when using woodworking equipment, when on the work floor, and when collecting dust.



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