How to Protect the Air Quality of Your Machine Shop

Machine shops, especially ones that work at all with metal, are dirty places. Welding and other metalworking tasks create pollutants that are dangerous to the people working within them. They are exposed to debris, dust, smoke, and fumes such as lead, hexavalent chromium, and manganese, just to name a few.

Work area in need of an air filtration system in San Jose, CA

These threats to worker safety and health are the reason that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) monitors and regulates the air quality in machine shops. They fine companies that do not follow the regulations. But more importantly, shops that consistently have poor air quality in the machine shop may have trouble hiring good workers. So what are some of the steps companies take to protect the air quality in their machine shop?

Good Ventilation

Some companies use open doors, windows, and fans to help draw the shop’s poor quality air out. Other companies use outdoor work areas for tasks such as welding. This is not practical in many circumstances because cold or hot weather may make using this method impractical, if not impossible.

Providing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

Some companies have workers use PPE such as respirators on the job. This doesn’t do anything to help improve the indoor air quality mandated by OSHA, though. You will need a better solution.

Process Improvement

Some simple work process changes can be taken to improve the machine shop’s air quality. One way is to position workers throughout the workfloor so they do not breathe in any contaminants or smoke. Another example, since most air quality issues in metalworking plants can be attributed to welding smoke and fumes, the company can choose a welding process that produces less smoke and fumes than other methods. For example, flux-cored arc welding and shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) generate more smoke and fumes than the gas tungsten arc welding process.

Portable Dust/Smoke/Fume Management Systems

For welding large items or items with an inconsistent shape, the right choice is to purchase a portable dust and smoke collector, such as the DustHog V-Series industrial dust collection system. The DustHog V-Series has models designed to move wherever a welding process is taking place. The V-Series uses an extraction arm with a collector hood to place right next to the process generating the contaminants to remove them immediately at the source.

Ambient Dust/Mist Collection Systems

An ambient dust collection system (typically installed above the workfloor) filters the air continuously. It sucks in the bad air, filters it, and expels clean air back into the shop. An example of this type of dust collector would be the DustHog SCA series.

Source-Based Dust/Mist Collection Systems

Another approach to managing dust, oil mist, smoke, and fumes is a source capture dust collection system for stationary work areas. A source-capture system may be a dust extractor mounted on top of the machine where the work process takes place. Another source-based solution is a stationary dust or mist collector that uses movable extraction arms with portable hoods to collect the pollutants right where the process is taking place. An excellent example of this type of industrial dust collector would be the DustHog SCB Series.

Don’t Let Poor Indoor Air Quality Hurt Your Business

At Matrix Systems, we provide DustHog industrial dust collection solutions in many different configurations, including the V-Series, the MCB-Series, the SCB-Series, and many others. Not only do we sell these units, but we also provide replacement filters, provide routine maintenance, and support them. For more information, give us a call at either (510) 822-5167 for Bay Area customers or call (530) 273-5474 for Sacramento Valley and Northern Nevada area customers, complete our online contact form, or email us at