Flour dust – the risks to health

Flour dust is harmful to health if breathed in. In fact, according to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), flour dust and enzymes containing additives such as amylase are the second most common cause of occupational asthma in the UK.

Tasks where exposure to flour dust and/or enzymes may occur include:

As well as occupational asthma, dust that is produced as a result of food production, can also cause serious skin conditions.

Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs)

The HSE sets a long term Workplace Exposure Limit for every industry and a full list can be found on the HSE website. Breaching of these standards can result in severe penalties, loss of productivity due to employee sickness and even legal action. For small or large food manufacturers, looking after employee health by reducing dust exposure is vitally important.

The Federation of Bakers (FOB)  has published guidance on Dust Control and Health Surveillance in Bakeries and explains how WELs are calculated.

The concentration of a hazardous substance in the air is averaged over a reference period, usually 8 hours, and is known as a time weighted average or TWA. The WEL for flour dust is 10 milligrams per cubic metre of air (mg/m3 ), measured as an 8-hour TWA.

Legally, employees must not be exposed to levels above that limit and if exposure can’t be eliminated, it must be reduced to a level which is as low as is reasonably practicable below the WEL.


Dust Control Equipment

If the risk of exposure to flour dust cannot by mitigated through PPE and working practices it is essential that a fit for purpose LEV System including dust control equipment is installed.

Filtermist’s brand Dustcheck designs and builds dust control and air filtration equipment including a range especially developed to meet the European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group (EHEDG) hygiene requirements of the food industry and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) in the food industry.

Standards of construction vary from mild steel with standard or special paint finishes, to stainless steel (grade to suit ie. 304 or 316) with finishes from standard sheet with welds as laid, to special crack and crevice free polished finishes – ideal for food production purposes.


Explosion Risk

Substances regularly used in the food industry, including flour, sugar and starches and various other organic ingredients, all have the potential to explode.

Manufacturing processes and equipment can create a ‘dust cloud’. When this cloud is suspended and mixed with air and exposed to an ignition source it can cause catastrophic, even fatal, explosions.

You can take steps to reduce explosive hazards. Look at where you position equipment and ensure there are no leakage points around handling systems that produce dust. Also, install the correct Dust Extraction equipment, built to the correct ATEX rated standard.

Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) requires that hazardous area classifications for flammable dusts should be undertaken in the same manner as that for flammable gases and vapours. Find out more on the HSE website.

All of Dustcheck’s filters come with ATEX rated options meaning potentially explosive and volatile products such as flour dust, can be handled safely and they can also be built to comply with Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR) where applicable.

We offer a wide range of filter cartridge and bag materials too, so are able to handle any product whether it is sticky, cohesive or extremely fine. Click here to see the range.

Our in-house design team are able to provide a filter to fit almost any space constraints so we can ensure we provide the right fit for your work-space.


The other benefits of dust control

  • Reduce Housekeeping & Minimise Breakdowns - If dust emissions can be controlled at source this will prevent egress of dust into the wider production environment. Less or no dust in the production environment means housekeeping tasks can be minimised. It also means that machinery productivity won’t be impaired by being clogged up with dust. This will save on maintenance requirements and prevent costly breakdowns - making the process more productive and reducing operator intervention, thereby saving money.
  • Maintain Product Quality - If cross-contamination with other materials occurs in your process it can impact on product quality and safety, and can result in an unusable end product which has a negative effect on productivity and profitability. Maximising product yield is an important consideration and we can help you to achieve this with an effective filtration system. We are able to offer FDA approved filter medias and cartridges to ensure product quality and if required ensure the product can be returned safely to the process.
  • Protect the Environment - Whilst most food based products by their nature are not hazardous, any processes that are vented to atmosphere have a legal obligation to comply with emissions according to EPA. The Environmental Protection Act 1990’ (EPA) for waste management and control of emissions into the environment requires your business to keep emissions at a certain level. By filtering your air and removing contaminants a Dustcheck system will ensure you meet this legislation. Dustcheck process filtration and dust control solutions will help prevent and control dust and emissions and solve all of the issues that go with it. You can also find industry standard guidance and advice on the HSE website with sections that deal specifically with dust control.


Local Exhaust Ventilation Testing

Regular LEV Tests by a competent person are a legal requirement of COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) regulations.

According to the HSE’s Occupational Lung Disease in Great Britain 2017 report, 12,000 lung disease deaths each year are estimated to be linked to past exposures at work. This has led to increasingly stringent guidelines and statutory requirements for Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV).

COSHH regulations require most LEV systems to be thoroughly tested at least once every 14 months - and this applies to all dust extraction units that you currently have on site. This examination must be undertaken by a competent person and the tests and reports must conform to HSE standards. HSG258 provides the recommended procedures to achieve these statutory requirements.

Filtermist provides comprehensive LEV Testing for all makes and types of extraction equipment, working strictly in accordance with HSG258 guidelines. Filtermist LEV Tests include measuring the air flow speed (velocity) of the air being extracted at the source and in the ducting.

The results are compared with the requirements specified in the original system design and our expert analysis, based on 50+ years’ experience in the manufacture and design of LEV systems, allows us to provide practical advice and recommendations.

Filtermist LEV reports include photos and/or schematic diagrams showing the Test Points, which are also clearly identified on the ducting, as required by the HSE. Follow this link for more details on our comprehensive LEV Test Reports.

LEV Testing is a legal requirement for compliance with health and safety standards and test reports often form part of a company's insurance. Inadequate testing can result in employers being prosecuted, insurance being invalidated and employees falling ill. 

For more information on our dust control solutions visit the Dustcheck website www.dustcheck.com

For servicing and LEV visit www.filtermist.co.uk

Or, call our sales team today on 01952 290500 or emails sales@filtermist.com

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