The dangers of air contamination have long been recognized, and over the past decades, OSHA and some 28 states have moved to provide requirements for safe work environments including ventilation and air quality. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates workplace safety while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes standards for environmental pollution. Industrial operations that create contaminated air of any magnitude should pay attention to both sets of regulations.
OSHA’s air quality rules establish exposure limits. These standards are based on the amount of exposure a worker may experience over the course of their daily employment. The EPA’s focus is different in that they are concerned with the environmental release of unhealthy substances into the air. Simply put, OSHA and its regulations cover workers in their workplaces, and the EPA protects the people living in the community and the general environment.
Many industrial operations need to be concerned with both the workers’ environmental exposure to dangerous substances and the hazardous quality of air ventilated or exhausted to the outdoors. An operation can easily meet one set of standards while failing the other. In either case, maintaining a safe work environment and a healthy environment is a corporate responsibility.
Ensuring both safety and compliance can be challenging and require both expertise and specialized equipment and processes. Understanding the nature and character of the materials vented or exhausted from the operations can assist in choosing or designing the best process and equipment.
The most basic decision to be made is between an exhaust system and a filtration system. An exhaust system traps and channels the contaminated air to the outdoors. To avoid negative pressure in the building a make-up unit pulls clean air into the building. These systems are enough for occasional bursts of dirty work without significant environmental or health hazards. They are inexpensive to purchase, install and maintain. However, if they are used frequently, the cost of heating or cooling the changing air may become a significant expense. Further, the intermittent use may create periods when hazards are created while they are inadvertently not in use. Strong operational practices and enforcement are necessary to ensure worker safety.
Filtration systems which use filters to remote particulate from the contaminated air are more expensive in design, cost, setup, and maintenance. However, they result in less need to heat or cool air. For operations where exhaust may release hazardous waste, filtration systems are necessary. Expert design is necessary to ensure the system is effective and reliable in achieving air quality standards for both OSHA and EPA regulations. Careful maintenance is necessary to ensure proper functioning over time, and a testing procedure should be established.
For filtration systems, there is yet another design choice: source capture or ambient system. Source capture systems work best when the source of the air contamination can be isolated, and the air emission segmented capturing the contamination as close to the source as possible and filtering particulates before they have a chance to spread. Systems can be designed to efficiently gather and limit
the spread of fumes. Where source capture systems are not practical, ambient systems are the alternative. These systems treat the air from the whole facility. Many operations use a combination of systems to capture what can easily be trapped close to its source, and provide ambient cleaning to ensure the balance of the work environment remains healthy.
CJI offers expert system design, construction, and installation of air exhaust systems. Since 1985 their professional engineers have been designing, constructing and installing high quality exhaust systems.