Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to Protect Your Manufacturing Plant from the Hazards of Dangerous Chemicals: Guest Blog

Special thanks to our guest blogger, Lenard Cohen, President of Static Solutions

Companies seeking to avoid potential dangers to their workers, the environment, and ESD-sensitive components must consider a number of factors when weighing the benefits of high-quality ESD products and their cost. To help make this choice easier, the most important step should be to educate the engineers and buyers about the possible risks and how they can be avoided.

Education about the potential hazards will help to address the traditional conflicts every company faces:
  • The engineer wants to correct or prevent an ESD-caused problem
  • The buyer wants to purchase a material that meets functional specifications
  • The safety engineer, if there is one, must specify the safest material and focus on avoiding future litigation
The Clean Air Act Regulations & How to Address Them
Some of the aforementioned conflicts were made more challenging many years back when the EPA's Clean Air Act issued regulations to reduce 189 toxins. The affected products fall under both state and federal regulatory agencies (California and Massachusetts being very stringent).

The best way to address these toxins is by focusing on the two most important criteria:
  • The information presented in the Material Safety and Data Sheet (MSDS). Learning to read the MSDS is very important (if you don't know how to read one you're missing potentially vital information; such as if a particular product needs special precautions for application or disposal)
  • The Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) number for each product. It is important to keep the VOC number as low as possible to prevent contamination
What are the Sources of VOC
VOCs are most commonly found in the following areas:
  • Soldering: such as plating, solder, flux, stencil cleaners, and flux-removing solvents. Using lead-free solders (RoHS approved) has gained common acceptance. One of the concerns of using lead-free solder, though, is the higher operating temperatures, the need to use more aggressive solders, and whisker generation. There are exemptions from the EPA's regulations for the defense and hospital industries
  • Coatings: including ESD paints, isocyanates and other cross-linking agents, aziridines, ESD floor finishes, strippers, cleaners, and hand lotions
  • Materials: like ESD table and floor mats, finger cots, and smocks
  • Coalescent agents from floor finishes and free monomers from polymer binders
  • Phthalates used in common table floor mats and the chemicals used to clean the mats
  • Paraben-containing hand lotions: are not allowed for pregnant women
  • Floor finishes: should not have certain chemicals in their formulation, i.e., phthalates (Green formulations, that have undergone testing, are available from reputable sources)
  • Strippers: should not contain sodium hydroxide or Diethylene glycol monobutyl ether (DEGBE)
  • Table/floor mats: avoid those containing dioctyl phthalates, which are present in vinyls and lower cost rubber mats
Safeguarding Workers from VCMs
Volatile Condensing Materials (VCM) are also potentially harmful to workers, parts, and the environment. Here are the best ways to avoid the dangers:
  • Read the MSDS sheet fully
  • Call manufacturers and request hard core test data
  • Always use proper precautions when handling all ESD products (gloves, eyewear, exhausts)
  • Remember when using ESD products the aim is to:
    • Eliminate or prevent ESD caused failures
    • Create a safe environment (and avoid all potential fines)
    • Protect the worker (this will avoid any possible law suits)
  • Purchase from proven, reputable sources
Educating workers, engineers, and buyers will help to create a safe and compliant workplace and reduce the chance of employee injuries or legal action against the company. For further information about protecting and preparing your company to face dangerous chemical hazards please contact the experts at Q Source.

No comments: