Not to be too prosaic about it, but there are hazards and dangers in everything we do. An advantage in a lab environment is we can work to know those hazards and mitigate their risks. Anytime we see blades spinning or hear motors running our animal brains jump straight to worrying about the physical damage that improper use could result in, and that’s a great response and good place to mentally go when surveying a lab situation. Just as serious a hazard is produced in the implementation of those processes: dust.

The Myers-Lawson School has its own specialized lab for research specifically in this area, the OCHRE Lab. We’re hoping the Build LAB makes enough dust to help out with their research (research on the dust, not on the breathers!) Without getting into the finer (dust pun) points of dust and its controls I just wanted to run through some of the ways we’re going to handle dust.

First off we have a large central dust collector that will be piped to each of the floor standing or stationary machines to handle everything coming off of them from large chips down to fine particles. This type of collection is important for cleanliness, to reduce the potential for slips and falls from dust on the concrete floor, for keeping mechanisms clean, and for respiratory health. The large collector though cannot capture all the very fine dust produced, dust down to the micro level. Some of that dust we can see as a haze in the air, it settles out onto surfaces, and much of it is simply an invisible danger to respiratory health. To address that dust we will have a hanging air filter, basically a blower and a set of increasingly fine filters, that constantly cycles and scrubs the air in the lab. Running a filter like this makes all the difference between a file layer of dust on everything and a white glove level of cleanliness.

That pair of machines addresses dust at the machine level and dust in the air. We also have dust sources coming from portable power tools and from hand tool operations. To address that we have several sets of dust-collector type vacuums that attach to the portable power tools and capture the dust at the point of production. When working with dust producing hand tools, such as hand abrading or sanding materials, destruction testing concrete, or other procedures we utilize appropriate dust masks and ventilation.

Dust is a necessary part of making things but also an inherent danger. We’ve taken steps to mitigate those concerns, to capture and contain, and to create a working environment that is clean and pleasant.