The Mystery of Mist Collectors
(October 2016) -One of the biggest safety concerns that many people have in the plant is the quality of the air we breathe. This is a huge emotional issue for most of us that have some experience from past exposure to coolant mists while working at the former Ontario Street Plant, and for those of us currently working in the machining lines. We all know someone who suffered symptoms from that exposure, and some of us have sensitivities to metalworking fluid exposures now. I’m constantly asked, are our mist collectors being properly maintained?
For many people, a mist collector is a big shiny box with voodoo inside. For such a critical piece of equipment, few people have intimate knowledge of how they work or who is responsible for what. You’ll find them on the floor amongst the machining lines connected to a gaggle of pipes and duct work that lead back to machines that spray coolant during machining operations. The mist generated gets sucked into the collector where it is filtered and returned to the plant for us to breathe. It does not get blown outside for environmental reasons. I’m told in a perfect world 95% of the mist gets filtered out, but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world.
Under the Act, section 25.(1)(b) states it is the employer’s duty to ensure that the equipment provided is maintained in good condition. In the recent past the Ministry has issued orders to GM enforcing this law, so it is taken seriously, but as often happens sometimes we lose focus. With the help of some very good people who are our new best friends, we were able to start a crusade of exposing mist collectors in various departments operating with blown filters. This helped to prove to the company that increased diligence was needed in order to maintain this critical equipment, refocusing attention on this important issue.
When a filter is saturated with oil mist to the point where air will no longer pass through it, the paper media similar to your furnace filter only much bigger, will get sucked out of the box by the filter fan, allowing oil mist to either pass directly through the mist collector into the surrounding area, or will not collect the mist from the machines at all. The gauge on the machine that reads suction will drop, and fool us into thinking the filter is doing its job. This is why it is so critical to actually shut down and look inside the unit. Most mist collectors can be shut down for short periods with little effect on the air quality of the surrounding area.
As a result of our crusade, we were able to get the company to agree to change the PM practice of KFM, to open the mist collector every week instead of monthly, and do a visual inspection of the filter media in addition to recording their weekly gauge reading. New to us is the inclusion of our Business Team’s Maintenance Trades in a weekly PM of mist collector’s primary filter wash down cycle, requiring them to open the filter for a visual inspection inside as well. We can now report abnormal conditions that require KFM cleaning or maintenance follow up, and since we started 12 units have been found with blown filters.
We feel we are on the right track and will be following up with other air quality issues… stay tuned.
Contact: Unifor Health and Safety Rep Edward Steers, 905 641 6420, PTT 233, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternate Unifor Health and Safety Rep Mike Pagano, 905 641 6420, PTT 359, email: email@example.com