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The Right Way to Approach Dust Removal in Paper & Packaging to Avoid Fines for Dangerous Work Environments

Dust Removal in Paper and Packaging

Dust removal in paper and packaging plants often gets overlooked. Equipment, supplies, flooring, and more get regular maintenance, but people tend to forget to look up. Rafters and conduits, with all their dust, often go unnoticed.

And one spark plus dust equals a fire, or fines, or both.

There’s always overhead dust in paper and packaging plants. Fine particles build up; there’s simply no avoiding it. And all this dust requires regular maintenance.

We’ve Never Had a Fire or Fines from Overhead Dust. Why bother?

“We’ve never had a problem,” doesn’t mean your plant is safe. It means you’ve been lucky. You’ve been lucky your plant hasn’t blown up or had a big evacuation. And when your luck runs out, fines can be significant, both with the budget and with attracting and maintaining business contracts.

Production cannot be at the expense of safety and housekeeping – rather, safety and housekeeping contribute to strong production. And while one of the biggest troubles right now is staffing, it’s critical to remember: it’s both cheaper and safer to do take care of overhead dust regularly.

What do I Need to Know About Overhead Dust Removal?

The problems businesses typically experience include a short staff, lack of proper cleaning equipment, and not being aware of how to properly clean.

Often employees are tasked with multiple jobs due to the current labor shortages. And with fewer people doing industrial work, sometimes employees need to do production work rather than cleaning. And maintenance can only do so much.

Another problem is, when maintenance doesn’t have enough help and they have to pull people off production lines, this costs production time too. Then, production personnel are put into situations where they’re not aware of the risks involved. With labor shortages, this is happening more and more.

There’s also the very real issue of wanting to give workers Sunday off because they’ve been working 7 days a week for months, but maintenance still needs to be done. To give employees the time off they badly need, help needs to be brought in.  Unless you have the personnel to clean the dust from the rafters, have the proper equipment for the cleaning, and people with the proper training, you need a subcontractor to do it.

How do I be Proactive, Save Money, and Keep Dust off the Rafters?

First, you need to be aware of all risks and have people get the proper training, including forklift and/or manlift training, handling spills, fall prevention, etc. You’ll also need the proper equipment to vacuum out and remove all dust and debris. And if you have only one forklift or need an industrial vacuum cleaner, you’ll likely need to rent equipment too. Need a list of the training and supplies you need? Ask here.

Preventing fires or fines for dangerous work environments takes routine maintenance. How often you clean the dust off the rafters depends on your business, but aim for at least quarterly to twice a year. Schedule dust cleaning ahead of time, and if you subcontract the work, you’ll also save money by preventing problems due to any labor shortage.

Is there a Fast Way to Safely Clean the Dust?

The secret to the sauce? With every work team, have a runner. That’s the person on the ground whose turn it is for a break, but who is available to go get a widget if needed, so the teams working in the rafters can keep working. This keeps things running as smoothly as possible, while everyone gets a break and the job gets done faster.

Whether you use your own in-house staff or a subcontractor, it’s important to trust that the work teams will hustle, and not lollygag around. This is a lot of overhead work, and even for the strongest individuals, it’s hard work. Hard, hot work. You need to have people who can do the work without injury, and get the job done.

So walk around, look up, and notice the dust and debris in your paper or packaging plant. And if you can see that debris when standing on the ground 30 feet below, you know that dust is inches thick in the rafters.


Schedule that cleaning. Today.