The dust hazard analysis (DHA) requirements of NFPA 652 push manufacturers to assess the dust control situation at their facilities. By conducting a DHA, facility managers…

The Impact of a Healthy Work Environment

When experts talk about healthy work environments, they aren’t usually referring to physical health. They’re talking about workplaces that are psychologically, mentally, and emotionally healthy.

The impact of these factors on an organization’s success is proven time and time again. Certainly, unhealthy companies can achieve success. But after a while, the cracks in the facade begin to show. Turnover increases, profits slip, and the customer loses faith.

In some ways, the Great Resignation has highlighted companies that create an extraordinary culture and work environment. Increased mobility and employment options make these (along with pay and opportunity for advancement) critical factors in a person’s choice of work location.

However, for most employees, physical health and safety aren’t major concerns. How many marketers or accountants have to consider literal death or dismemberment on the job?

Carpal tunnel syndrome from spending so much time at the keyboard? Possible.
Back trouble caused by sitting improperly for hours on end? Very likely.
Heart disease and weight gain from a sedentary lifestyle? Maybe.

But catastrophic injuries? Not the norm.

For those who work in manufacturing and processing facilities, there are real physical dangers. Even when we discount the loss of life or limb, these operations aren’t known for being the cleanest. Dust clouds fill the air, settling on clothes and hair. The staff can’t leave their work at work because it’s literally stuck to them.

The Real Cost of Manual Dust Cleaning

It isn’t until you sit down and start adding up all of the costs the problem becomes apparent.

It’s Not Just About Money

Most people seem to believe that pay is the primary reason people leave their jobs in manufacturing facilities. Studies have shown that there are other factors at play, though.

How safe, clean, and physically healthy the work environment is – these factors all play a role in retaining an employee.

Lumber Mill with Dust- Unhealthy WorkplaceIn a post-pandemic world, manufacturing workers have been leaving their jobs at rates never seen before. The US Bureau of Labor cites an increase of 58% for voluntary separation. Most manufacturing businesses have addressed only the pay concerns to counter retention problems.

But improving the pay concerns alone isn’t enough.

After the entire world has seen the benefits of remote work, getting employees to return to their factories hasn’t been easy. Though you’ll never be able to give them an environment as comfortable as home, you can provide them with one that makes them feel safe.

At SonicAire, we’ve been talking a lot about the issue of staffing – and for good reasons.

    1. First of all, we’re a manufacturer. Maintaining a consistent and healthy (both physically and otherwise) staff is key to ensuring we meet the growing demand for our dust control solutions.
    2. Second, staffing is critically important to maintaining fugitive dust compliance. While we know that our products can mitigate dust buildup in hard-to-reach spaces, many organizations still choose to clean these areas manually. And with staffing shortages, these efforts are more likely to be designated a low priority.

When it comes to any facility, work conditions matter. We can talk all day long about how nice it is to work from home in certain fields. For companies like yours, though, products are made in the building. And that’s where your staff needs to be.

So, imagine two different work environments.

    • In Company A, dust clouds fill the air. Rings of floating particulate/particles encircle every overhead light. It covers every piece of equipment. The staff (also covered in dust, by the way) has to wear respirators to protect themselves from particulates. Once per month, everything has to shut down so a few people can go up in lifts to blow down or vacuum up dust accumulation.
    • At Company B, floating dust is negligible. It primarily ends up on the floor, not on every surface in the building. Masks are optional and primarily for those more concerned with any long-term effects. Regular housekeeping involves occasionally sweeping up dust off the floor.

If you’re given the option of working at one of these two locations, all else being equal, which would you choose?

Obviously, there are plenty of other factors in that decision. But to argue that the health considerations of the shop floor don’t matter is naive. So is the assumption that your company is exempt from the concern. A recent study from Mental Health America, “2022 Mind The Workplace Report,” found that only 23% of employees considered their workplace a “healthy” environment.

The Hidden Cost

Always aim to give your employees a safe environmentYour employees may not tell you outright that dust buildup and combustion risk are factors in their decision to leave, but you have to assume each morale complaint has that somewhere in its cause. Safer workplaces mean fewer injuries, increased productivity, and improved morale.

Your employees won’t be satisfied when they aren’t safe.

If you aren’t offering them a healthy work environment, you’re not doing all you can for your business, and it may be costing you more than you think.

When considering the bottom line for your business, you already know that risk mitigation has to be a factor. But your bottom line can get complicated when you add in the cost of employee retention and a greater churn rate.

In 2019, Gallop cited over a trillion dollars lost every year from voluntary turnover. And that was before the Great Resignation. When manufacturers struggle to convince employees to return to their factory jobs, as is happening now, a drop in this number isn’t likely.

Gallop made a conservative estimate that the cost of replacing each employee is somewhere between one-half to double the employee’s annual salary. Between loss in production to overtime pay that other employees make based on redistribution of duties, the costs pile up.

You must think of this in relatable circumstances to understand what this cost estimate actually means. If you replace four employees a year and their average salary is $25,000 – you could be spending somewhere between $50,000 to $200,000 in replacing them.

Keep in mind that each loss comes with a decrease in your company’s reputation and a significant loss to your morale. You lose valuable experience when you lose employees, and each preventable departure will make it all the more difficult for you to gain employee loyalty.

Safety is Always Worth the Effort

The same 2019 Gallop article claims that 52% of voluntary departures say “their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job.” It’s a smart policy to look at your company’s voluntary resignations in the same light. Ensuring your employees are safe and that they have the work environment that makes them feel like they’re a priority to your organization is crucial.

Creating a healthy work environment isn’t easy. As they say, if it were easy, everyone would do it. That’s why most manufacturing employers seem to be throwing money at their employees and simply hoping the retention problem goes away.

When you offer your employees a place that provides safety and shows you care about more than just your bottom line, you’ll have a competitive edge over other manufacturing companies. And the healthy environment you create will inevitably support your company’s bottom line.

You may be surprised by the impact dust has on your business. If you’re not sure how your facility stands on combustible dust safety, click here for a Complimentary Dust Management Plan and ROI Analysis. Because making your employees a priority is more important now than ever.

SonicAire Fans – A Cost-Effective Alternative

We’re not going to lie to you. Installing a SonicAire Dust Control Fan System requires an investment. There are very few facilities that can get by with a couple of fans. But the long-term benefits speak for themselves.

SonicAire fans either run for specified periods during the day or all day, depending upon your operations and dust production level. However, they use two different tactics to prevent combustible dust buildup in overhead areas. 

First, they clean off higher surfaces with continual airflow. This prevents buildup and eliminates the cleaning of these areas. Second, a properly engineered system creates an Air Barrier to prevent warm air currents from bringing dust up into overhead spaces.

Let’s look at how they impact the costs we’ve highlighted above.

Measuring the Difference

Each facility is different. In manufacturing and processing, operations produce varying levels and types of fugitive dust. But each facility is likely overspending on manual cleaning or simply not cleaning enough.

When you consider the labor, equipment, and lost productivity that goes into manual cleaning practices and then add in the insurance costs, potential fines, and employee dissatisfaction. Is manually cleaning your facility really saving you money?

We’re confident our combustible dust control systems will save your facility money even with the initial investment to purchase and install. But, if you’re not 100% sold, we get it. That’s why we offer free dust management plans with ROI Analysis. These engineered plans recommend the amount and placing of fans to ensure maximum protection from dust buildup.

Click here to request your Free Dust Management Plan. 

Or contact us to discuss dust control solutions for your facility.

The dust hazard analysis (DHA) requirements of NFPA 652 push manufacturers to assess the dust control situation at their facilities. By conducting a DHA, facility managers…

https://unsplash.com/photos/HpPmiduLDC0

Fugitive dust is serious business for facilities across the U.S. and worldwide. The dangers of combustible dust are obvious. Companies do their absolute best to comply with NFPA 652 and other standards in most cases.

But, can we all agree that keeping hard-to-reach areas clean is a pain?

There’s nothing like spending all day cleaning – employees in scissor lifts or ladders, blowing down dust, and sweeping it up – only to watch it build up again in a matter of weeks.

When it comes to any problem, not just fugitive dust, we first choose the most obvious solution. So, it’s no wonder that most organizations manually clean combustible dust. Traditionally, labor has been relatively inexpensive, especially when you’re already paying them. And until regulations tightened, consistently eliminating dust buildup was something that could wait just a little bit longer.

This all added up to a reasonable expense to keep things clean and stay within proper limits. 

However, as with most problems, the first solution isn’t necessarily the best. And manual cleaning is not the cheapest or most effective way to maintain compliance. 

The Real Cost of Manual Dust Cleaning

It isn’t until you sit down and start adding up all of the costs the problem becomes apparent.

The Real Cost of Manual Dust Cleaning

It isn’t until you sit down and start adding up all of the costs the problem becomes apparent.

1 – Labor Costs

Even before the Great Resignation, employee costs have been on the rise. Insurance, benefits, and rising wages have made managing a growing workforce costly for companies. These costs are manageable as long as they continue focusing on revenue-generating activities. Unfortunately, when you’re paying your staff to clean, it’s not making your company any additional money. It’s increasing your overhead. 

Depending upon how often you need to clean, these costs add up quickly, costing companies anywhere from thousands of dollars per month to tens of thousands. If you’re not tracking the non-revenue-generating labor cost in your business, you could be wasting more money than you realize.

2 – Equipment

If you clean frequently enough, you may have the necessary equipment. Smaller facilities may be able to get away with ladders and vacuums. Larger facilities require more expensive solutions.

  • Scissor lifts to get into overhead spaces.
  • Complex vacuums with enough hose to reach those spaces.
  • Brooms/blowers to get dust down to the floor where staff can sweet or vacuum it up

It adds up quickly.

Your company may only use this equipment for cleaning purposes. If so, your team is maintaining and storing sparingly used equipment that isn’t preventing the problem.

Scissor lifts alone can cost between $5,000-$50,000 depending upon the size needed for your ceiling height. If you’re not cleaning frequently, renting one may be an option. Although it could still cost you a couple of hundred dollars each time, and it doesn’t include the cost of vacuums, blowers, and other equipment.

Although frowned upon, many facilities use compressed air for blowing down combustible dust. While this may seem like a low or no-cost option since your facility probably already has an air compressor on site, the electricity used to compress the air is not free. In fact, that air can cost 30 cents or more per 1000 standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM). A typical blowdown process could easily use millions of cubic feet of compressed air. This is just one of many hidden costs that are often overlooked.

3 – Lost Productivity

You may be thinking to yourself, “I can deal with paying my employees to work an extra day each month and to rent some equipment.” Unfortunately, the most considerable cost for many facilities is likely lost productivity. Manufacturing and Processing operations often run 24/7 nowadays to keep up with demand. Employees work across multiple shifts to minimize downtime. 

Every hour of downtime minimizes your bottom line.

For some businesses, this could be thousands of dollars per hour. But data suggests it’s far worse than this. A study in 2021 of the world’s largest manufacturers shows that plants lost as much as a full day of production every month due to a number of factors. 

According to Alexander Hill, Chief Global Strategist at Senseye commented, “Unplanned downtime is the curse of the industrial sector. When expensive production lines and machinery fall silent, organizations stop earning, and those investments start costing rather than making money. The costs can spiral to well over $100,000 per hour for large manufacturers in almost all industrial sectors.”

Even if you aren’t one of the largest processing facilities in the world, chances are it’s costing you thousands of dollars per hour every time you shut down for cleaning. Add up those costs over the year, and the impact on the bottom line is clear.

4 – Insurance Related Costs

In a case study completed on an AZEK Company blending operation, Plant Engineer, Tom Matechik, discussed insurance’s role in manual cleanings. After an insurance inspector expressed concern over dust buildup, they had a choice. Let their insurance costs go up or increase cleaning efforts to ensure dust buildup was acceptable during an assessment. Instead of managing cleanings with internal staff, they hired a third-party cleaning company to clean. This was costly but possibly less expensive than an increase on their premiums.

AZEK isn’t alone in these concerns. Insurance costs keep going up for everyone, and inspectors aren’t looking for reasons to reduce your rates. Failure to clean often enough or thoroughly enough could bump up your premium. Conversely, scheduling more manual cleanings means increased operational costs.

5 – OSHA Fines

Manual cleanings are effective when completed often and comprehensively in your facility. But you never know when an OSHA inspector may drop by. You could be one week away from your next scheduled cleaning when they stop by. 

Often, they’ll schedule a follow-up visit so long as there haven’t been previous citations. But these repeat visits still require cleaning and another trip around the facility.

Repeat violations could result in expensive fines and required cleanings. For example, take Watson Wood Works [link to case study on site]. They had fallen behind on cleanings when an inspector popped by. The result? A violation that would have required them to shut down for cleanings twice per year or cost them a severe fine. Jesse Watson, the owner, estimates it would have cost them tens of thousands of dollars in cleaning costs and lost productivity.

Luckily, they found an alternative solution. But more on that later.

6 – Workplace Safety and Satisfaction

The Great Resignation has made evident the flexibility the modern workforce has. If current working conditions aren’t ideal, there’s always another option. Even if you clean frequently enough and have collectors on your machinery, some plants still swim in floating particulate. Then, when it comes to cleaning, who loves taking the time to jump in a scissor lift and vacuum out overhead spaces?

Given the opportunities in the marketplace, if your employees don’t feel safe in their position. Or, even if it’s just a matter of not coming out of the plant covered in dust, there’s probably somewhere else they can work.

The enormous cost of turnover should give manufacturers and processors reason to pause and consider their environment. Otherwise, it could start to impact product quality and productivity as a whole, costing you more money in the long run.

SonicAire Fans – A Cost-Effective Alternative

We’re not going to lie to you. Installing a SonicAire Dust Control Fan System requires an investment. There are very few facilities that can get by with a couple of fans. But the long-term benefits speak for themselves.

SonicAire fans either run for specified periods during the day or all day, depending upon your operations and dust production level. However, they use two different tactics to prevent combustible dust buildup in overhead areas. 

First, they clean off higher surfaces with continual airflow. This prevents buildup and eliminates the cleaning of these areas. Second, a properly engineered system creates an Air Barrier to prevent warm air currents from bringing dust up into overhead spaces.

Let’s look at how they impact the costs we’ve highlighted above.

SonicAire Fans – A Cost-Effective Alternative

We’re not going to lie to you. Installing a SonicAire Dust Control Fan System requires an investment. There are very few facilities that can get by with a couple of fans. But the long-term benefits speak for themselves.

SonicAire fans either run for specified periods during the day or all day, depending upon your operations and dust production level. However, they use two different tactics to prevent combustible dust buildup in overhead areas. 

First, they clean off higher surfaces with continual airflow. This prevents buildup and eliminates the cleaning of these areas. Second, a properly engineered system creates an Air Barrier to prevent warm air currents from bringing dust up into overhead spaces.

Let’s look at how they impact the costs we’ve highlighted above.

1 – Minimal Labor Required. 

Because overhead spaces are the most expensive and time-intensive to clean, SonicAire fans eliminate the bulk of the work required to clean dust. Fugitive dust settles on the floor and can easily be swept up or vacuumed without impacting operations.

All of those manual cleanings are gone, and so is the required labor. At most, you’ll need to do a periodic spot check for any areas that have some dust buildup.

2 – Rent/Maintain Less Equipment

If you don’t already have a scissor lift, you shouldn’t need one now unless it’s to change out a lightbulb. You should be able to rent one for those purposes—no need for complicated vacuums and blowers. 

Since the dust ends up on the floor, a broom, autovac, or floor cleaner can take care of the dust.

3 – Maintain Productivity

The highest cost of all, lost productivity, becomes a non-issue. With those cleanings removed from the schedule, there’s no need for long periods of downtime. Now you’ll have to blame it on something else, like maintenance on processing equipment.

Imagine getting days of productivity back each year. Picture your staff working on things that generate revenue for your company. And don’t forget, you won’t have to schedule or manage those annoying cleanings anymore either—more time for you to focus on what’s critical to your business.

4 – Avoid Insurance Premium Increases Caused By Fugitive Dust

Remember AZEK, the company that scheduled cleaning crews before each insurance appraisal? They avoided increases to their premiums thanks to installing SonicAire fans.

Now, they don’t worry about visits from their insurer. They know their fans are proactively protecting them from fugitive dust problems.

5 – Avoid Citations and Fines Related to Dust Buildup in Overhead Spaces

The most recent NFPA 652 standard lists fans for continuous dust control (e.g., SonicAire) as an approved method  for preventing dust buildup. 

Watson Wood Works avoided additional fines and scrutiny because they chose an approved product to mitigate dust buildup.

Helping businesses like Watson Wood Works stay compliant and stay productive is  why we rolled out the SonicAire Compliance Guarantee.

As long as SonicAire fans are correctly installed and maintained according to our engineers’ layout/engineering recommendations, they will keep your overhead spaces in compliance with the applicable NFPA dust requirements.  And if they don’t, we’ll provide a full refund on the cost of fans or reimburse the cost of any imposed fine, whichever is less.

*More Details at https://www.sonicaire.com/compliance-guarantee/

6 – Keep Employees Happy

You won’t realize just how dusty your facility is until it isn’t. 

Before installing SonicAire fans at The AZEK Company’s Corey Street Plant, visitors could see rings of dust floating around lights in the blending tower. Now, you can clearly see the lights, and there’s noticeably less dust floating in the facility.

In a recent White Paper published on this very subject, a third-party testing firm measured the density of dust particulate with and without SonicAire Fans in two AZEK facilities. At the Corey Street Plant, where they installed SonicAire fans, levelized particulate loads were around 2mg/m3. These levels were 1/3 to 1/4 the amounts at the Keyser Plant, where fans weren’t operating yet. Even more disturbing, the Keyser Plant saw microbursts of dust whenever the blending tower was operational, above 40mg/m3 at times,

See the full white paper here.

Preventative measures like SonicAire not only create a better work environment. They create a safer one as well, potentially reducing employee turnover and health issues over time.

Measuring the Difference

Each facility is different. In manufacturing and processing, operations produce varying levels and types of fugitive dust. But each facility is likely overspending on manual cleaning or simply not cleaning enough.

When you consider the labor, equipment, and lost productivity that goes into manual cleaning practices and then add in the insurance costs, potential fines, and employee dissatisfaction. Is manually cleaning your facility really saving you money?

We’re confident our combustible dust control systems will save your facility money even with the initial investment to purchase and install. But, if you’re not 100% sold, we get it. That’s why we offer free dust management plans with ROI Analysis. These engineered plans recommend the amount and placing of fans to ensure maximum protection from dust buildup.

Click here to request your Free Dust Management Plan. 

Or contact us to discuss dust control solutions for your facility.

Measuring the Difference

Each facility is different. In manufacturing and processing, operations produce varying levels and types of fugitive dust. But each facility is likely overspending on manual cleaning or simply not cleaning enough.

When you consider the labor, equipment, and lost productivity that goes into manual cleaning practices and then add in the insurance costs, potential fines, and employee dissatisfaction. Is manually cleaning your facility really saving you money?

We’re confident our combustible dust control systems will save your facility money even with the initial investment to purchase and install. But, if you’re not 100% sold, we get it. That’s why we offer free dust management plans with ROI Analysis. These engineered plans recommend the amount and placing of fans to ensure maximum protection from dust buildup.

Click here to request your Free Dust Management Plan. 

Or contact us to discuss dust control solutions for your facility.

Real Cost of Fugitive Dust Cover

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The Real Cost of Fugitive Dust in Hard-to-Reach Spaces

What You Can’t See Can Hurt You

To help protect your workplace, we’ve compiled the following resource, The Real Cost of Fugitive Dust in Hard-to-Reach Spaces: What You Can’t See Can Hurt You. In it, we identify seven ways fugitive dust is likely impacting your facility and its profitability.

These costs go beyond housekeeping and explain why you should be preventing dust buildup to protect the bottom line, not just to stay in compliance.