Bust the dust

22 July 2019

Tracey Glew, managing director, The Preparation Group, provides a guide to choosing effective dust control equipment for the cleaning of industrial facilities

When cleaning factories, warehouses, power plants and other types of industrial facilities, there are challenges. Not least the safety aspects of working in an environment that may contain hazardous chemicals, metal shavings or combustible debris, but also the fact that machinery in situ is often sensitive to dust and dirt.

It is important that informed decisions are made upon the choice of dust extraction and control. Whilst the risks vary depending on what material is being removed there are solutions for all applications, dry or wet. Airborne particles can be prevented entirely, making the operation safe for the operator whilst safeguarding sensitive equipment.

Dust extraction units

The chosen dust extraction unit must match the operation in terms of the size of motor, level of suction power, filtration capabilities and collection capacity, otherwise extraction will be ineffective and dust contamination may occur. Not all vacuums are the same. For maximum efficiency and durability, the model needs to be robust and offer low maintenance with easy cleaning and changing of filters. Energy saving models with multi-tasking options can also be of benefit.

Factors that should be taken into consideration before employing a dust extractor are; the available power; the composition of the material to be removed; the type, volume and density of the dust or debris and whether a filter grade has been specified. 

For light applications on dust or ‘swarf’, a single motor vacuum with a small bin capacity should be suitable for the task. For mid to large operations, models with 2 or 3 motors that are individually powered, allow the operator to select the level of power required. Statistics show that for most daily operations, 80% of the time only 50% of the available power is needed without impeding on suction capacity and performance. 

For situations where dust is critical or where toxic and hazardous substances are present, there are vacuums that feature a Longopac Safe Bagging System such as The Preparation Group’s 202DSLP. Here, instead of a bin, dust and solid material is collected into a continuous anti-static feeding bag which is twisted and sealed by the operator into bags for disposal. This gives the operator confidence that airborne particles are safely contained.

When there is a need to vacuum both liquids and dry materials, there are dual purpose models available. The M450 dry/wet vacuum for example, allows the operator to switch between dry and wet operations with no compromise to suction levels and without the need to change the filter.

In potentially explosive and hazardous atmospheres where the presence of gases or dust such as flour may ignite, there are Atex rated vacuums that are engineered specifically to eradicate explosion risk.

The size of the collection bin or bag attachment in which the dust is contained prior to disposal should be carefully regarded. The capacity must be suitable to deal with the quantity of dust and large enough to adequately contain the debris. It is not practical to have to continually empty the bin or to seal bags. 

Filter fitting

With any operation, it is essential that the correct filter is fitted. In many projects, clarifying the filter grade capacity and the level of filtration in comparison with the intended operation and the level or type of dust produced is critical. There are three main types of filters; L, M and H (low, medium and high). A vacuum must be fitted with an L or M type filter in order to correctly function but can also be fitted with an additional H grade filter for collecting very fine particle and hazardous dust. A vacuum fitted with an H filter is, by definition, an H-type Vacuum. L grade filters are only suitable for containment of sand shed particles and the simplest applications. For identification, vacuums containing an additional ‘H’ filter will be clearly labelled with an ‘H’ on the body of the machine.