Filtering the Safety Message

May again, and the fourth annual Safety Week kicks off again (despite a bit of a premature start, or was that an anti-start?)

First message for the week is filtration.  In Australia (at least in Victoria), every 6 months when we change to daylight savings, there is a safety message pushed to change the batteries in your smoke detectors.  Along the same vein, perhaps Safety Week is a good time to be reminded to check, clean and/or replace the various filters you have around the workshop.

There are obvious ones – the dust mask you use (you do have a dust mask don’t you?), the shop air filtration (you DO have air filtration don’t you?!)  Don’t forget though, the pleated filter on the dust extractor, the filter in any shop vac, powered respirators. Tools too, the local filters on tools such as power sanders, and even the filters protecting the machines themselves, such as the air intake filter on the air compressor.

Some filters are easily tested: powered respirators are typically provided with a test rig (normally a tube with a captive ball, the better the filters, the faster the air flow, the higher the ball rides in the tube).

Air filtration units may not have a ball & tube, but a sheet of A4 paper solves that!  Stick (with air pressure, not with glue!) the A4 paper to the intake of the air filter, turn the filter unit off and time how long the paper remains stuck.  You do this when the filter is new, and occasionally repeat the test.  When the time for the paper to drop away is 1/2 that when the filter is new, it is time to clean or replace.

As I have discussed before, it is harder to justify expenditure on air filtration compared to so many other things you can spend money on around the shed, but, from experience, it is worth it.  Not only for the long term health benefits (or rather prevention of the long term health impacts of breathing dust, be that from the plainest timber, to the toxic manmade products (MDF comes to mind)), but also getting to enjoy the woodworking – finishes not getting unnecessary dust ingress, clouds puffing up each time a machine is used etc etc.  So not only from a health perspective, but also just improving the overall enjoyment, air filtration is definitely a worthy addition to a workshop.

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