Central Fabrication Labs Continually Strive for Clean Air WithinFacility

As the central fabrication facility continues to evolve, so do the broad
rules and regulations from federal and local officials regarding the safe
handling of dangerous compounds and equipment. While the appropriate handling
of chemical compounds are extremely important, O&P
central fabrication labs should not overlook simple day to
day procedures that will help keep the facility well-ventilated, clean and most
importantly, healthy for employees.

“The best practice for safety is cleanliness and
organization,” Scott Wimberly, CIO, RTPO, technical services manager,
FabTech Systems, told O&P Business News. “If your
facility is clean, objects and dust particles become much more visible. Your
equipment will be better maintained. And that tends to go hand and hand with
safety. Safety issues are typically based on clear walkways, maintenance of
equipment and cleanliness.”

At FabTech Systems, Wimberly makes use of a daily operation schedule
that has become routine for him and his employees. When employees come into the
lab, they are required to service the facility which includes sweeping the
floor to clear walkways, changing the trash cans, restocking fasteners, hanging
tools back up and ensuring that they are maintained and in working condition.
At the end of the day, there are requirements as well.

“It is a scheduled part of my daily operations and it is on my
manufacturing board,” Wimberly said. “And that is how we maintain
that cleanliness and a stable platform for safety. Cleanliness by itself is not
the answer, but a facility that is kept clean tends to have a lot less

The number one concern for Wimberly is irritant dust. Because
Wimberly’s facility works with such small amounts of chemicals and resins,
irritant dust is a much greater concern.

“In terms of the amount of airspace and air turnover we have in our
building, we are more concerned with the plaster, fiberglass, carbon fiber and
other irritant items that are being chopped up inside the building. These items
are just heavier than air so they can float around the room for 15 to 20
minutes,” he said. “And that is in a room with good airflow. A room
without good airflow, like many of the labs that people may be operating in,
irritant dust should be a concern.”

FabTech Systems recently moved into a building that employs an
exchanging system that exchanges 35,000 cubic feet of air per minute. Even with
all of the clean air exchanged, Wimberly will still patrol the facility with a
leaf blower on a weekly basis.

“We moved of all the machine equipment into a centralized room kept
under negative pressure by high volume fans,” he said. “Within that
room, we have a dust collector that has an eight- inch mainline. The mainline
feeds smaller hoses to the actual grinding equipment in the room. We are using
the negative pressure from that room as a direct down draft source for our
lamination room. We are trying to capture airborne fiber that comes from
cutting fiberglass and carbon with filters.”

Despite the precautions in terms of ventilation, Wimberly has continued
to tinker with his airflow system. He has employed controlled suction sources
that remove the amount of irritant dust the equipment produces.

“It is about proper ventilation and doing as much as you can to
avoid airborne irritants,” he said. “By removing irritant fibers, I
do not need to concern myself with a giant air circulation system. The areas in
which you are cutting are plumbed with hoses that the person holds next to the
cast saw to actually remove that product before it gets sprayed all around the

Wimberly acknowledged that a central fabrication lab makes what the
customer wants, and that often requires irritant materials.

“We have people who are grinding and covering themselves in
fiberglass and carbon fiber dust and then going into rooms with patients,”
Wimberly said. “You do not have to. There are alternatives on the market
that allow you to reduce that. We will not be able to replace the material, but
you can certainly do more business without as much irritant fiber.”
— by Anthony Calabro

Disclosure:Wimberly has no relevant
financial disclosures.


I think a good quality dust collection system is probably one of the
most undervalued aspects of our business. Things like acrylic resin, carbon
fiber and fiberglass are irritants, but those have been studied heavily by many
industries. We have a pretty good idea of how those will react. What worries me
are the those that have not been studied as heavily. We work with some
materials without knowing much about their long-term safety. I am talking about
materials like plaster. Plaster is our biggest dust producer.

Dust collection systems are valued in most central fabrication
facilities. We are usually in an industrial area and central fabrication labs
are accustomed to spending money on equipment. But in clinical facilities, they
are more undervalued. Practitioners who work with patients are rarely exposed
in a clinical facility, but the technicians have to breathe that stuff on a
regular basis. But clinical facility managers are often hesitant to invest in
such large, noisy equipment.

— Tony Wickman, RTPO
Chief executive
officer, Freedom Fabrication

Disclosure: Wickman has no relevant financial

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