Atlas Copco Industrial Technique is a winner of the Good Practice Awards competition which this year focuses on the safe handling of hazardous substances. The award recognizes the company’s focus on improving air quality in the laboratory during testing, and the entire company has been involved in the effort.
Drilling into materials such as titanium, aluminum and carbon fiber generates smoke, dust and oil mist. The smoke was a problem even when breathing masks were worn, and the ventilation filter was not effective enough. “It's one thing to have a feeling that the air is not good and another to get it confirmed in black and white. We consulted a workplace environmental engineer with expertise in measurements of this type,” says Thomas Timan, Safety Officer and Laboratory Engineer at Atlas Copco. The oil mist in the air, which should be below defined limits, was 1.5 times higher than permissible. And when it came to nanoparticles in the air, where there is no limit, the measuring instrument stopped at 550 000. Karin Järverud, Laboratory Manager, Atlas Copco: “We performed laboratory tests, drilling into different kinds of material while wearing breathing masks with fresh air filter backpacks as well as protective suits. Financing these measures has not been a problem as we have had continuous support from the management. Our rule here is ‘Safety First’.” The work continued over a period of two years and when the upgrade of the lab was finished it was time for new particle measurements. This time the oil mist was within the allowed limit and the reading for nanoparticles was 500 times lower than previously. The level was, in fact, lower than in an office area. Laboratory Manager Karin Järverud relates that it’s the cooperation across the entire company that has resulted in this success for Atlas Copco. The many people involved along the way have supported each other and contributed their own insights into the problem. Coordination and patience have been essential. “The fact that we received the award proves that we are doing the right things,” says Karin Järverud. “It's been a textbook example of how people should work together to improve the environment in their workplace.” Another Good Practice Awards recipient is the National Resource Center for Chemistry Teachers, a Swedish central organization which supports the teaching of chemistry in junior and senior high schools. The awards will be presented in November at the European Work Environment agency in Bilbao.