Nanofiber Filters Served With Sawdust?


Nanofiber Filters Served With Sawdust?



Most everyone knows you can’t just go mixing any kind of filter with any kind of dust. After all, some of them certainly don’t pair well together. Fortunately, we here at Imperial Systems have put together a guide for the thoughtful buyer of dust collection filters. With this handy reference, you’ll never have to worry about showing up with the wrong filter for the occasion!


(NOTE: We DO NOT recommend that this be used as a substitute for consulting with an actual filter expert. Please call us At 800-918-3013 for important information that doesn’t fit in an infographic.)



  • Filter bags, or sometimes cyclones, are usually used for materials that are large, fibrous, or big enough to damage a cartridge filter. Bags are also often used when the temperature or humidity is too high for a cartridge filter to handle.


  • Metalworking or welding produce fumes. These are very fine particles and an 80/20 media is not efficient enough to catch them. Since many metal dusts are explosive, we do recommend a DeltaMAXX™ nanofiber FR, which is fire retardant. In some applications such as shot blasting, spunbond is used because it is very durable. If your metal fume or dust has grease or oil in it, you may need a special media.


  • Dust from ANY of these categories can be explosive. If your dust is explosive or flammable, we will almost always recommend a DeltaMAXX™ nanofiber FR filter as part of an IDA system.


  • Organic dust, like food products, may present some special challenges. Organic dust comes in different sizes, and may clump together, absorb moisture, or present other particular problems. Please consult with us about the characteristics of your particular dust.


  • If your dust is oily, abrasive, wet, sticky, or otherwise likely to make a mess of a normal dust collector filter, there are a variety of special materials to help. PTFE resists having anything stick to it, while hydrophobic or oleophobic filters will repel water or oil.




Worker Safety Fails In Movies



Here at Imperial Systems Inc., we want you and your coworkers to be safe at work at all times. But sadly, dust and fume collection can’t protect you from some of the following hazards. While a properly installed spark arrestor or abort gate might help with some of the constant explosions, we don’t manufacture anything to help you deal with your dangerous fish or questionable product testing. All we can say is that safety matters. Combustible materials should not be stored in your facility in massive quantities, robot laser fights should be strictly against protocol, and employees should always be discouraged from licking the walls.




Very poor storage of combustible materials

Rusted/damaged stairways used for gunfights

Barrels of face-dissolving toxic waste stored onsite

Randomly explosive debris stored in aisles

Unsafe machine operation (including but not limited to car jumping)

No fall protection around giant waste-filled pit

No fall safety devices while shooting at each other from catwalks

Unlicensed crane operator attempting to kill people





Platform lacks safety rails in intentional attempt to kill people

Cave carved out of granite without appropriate respiratory silica protection

No safety guards around open water tank

Fish capable of eating human heads stored on worksite in unsafe containers

Workers tending to dangerous animals lacking PPE

No posted guidelines for management of ill-tempered sea bass






No face or hair covers on food product workers

Allowing visitors to lick the walls

Questionable product testing methods including testing on children

Exposure to hazardous chemicals/radiation

Lack of proper safety protocol or PPE for employees

Unguarded disposal machinery causes child incineration hazard

No material safety data on display

Items of clothing used as food ingredients not cleaned prior to use



While we can’t do much about the ill-tempered sea bass or Willie Wonka’s highly questionable food processing methods, we can help you with combustible dust, explosion hazards, and other safety issues. Please contact us for any dust and fume collection needs you might have, and we’ll be happy to help.


You can contact us about your concerns with dirty shoes being used as candy ingredients, too, but we’re not sure we’ll be much help.


This November, with best wishes and some sadness, we celebrate the retirement of a man who didn’t just work here at Imperial Systems: Bruce Johnson helped to build it.


When you ask Bruce to tell you about his accomplishments, he seems a little confused as to why you’d even ask him. He is quiet and humble, and I’m not sure he realizes how deeply he is respected or how deeply he will be missed.


Bruce came to Imperial Systems in January of 2008. On his first day, he was helping design a ductwork system. There were no offices, just a shop with dividers, and every project was a team project. These were early days for Imperial Systems as a company stepping into larger projects and new industries, and Bruce will tell you, with a smile, “It was definitely a team effort. We were all in it together.” Whether it was Jeremiah doing some welding or Joe Moore programming the plasma table or Charlie bringing his vast experience as a draftsman, everyone took whatever role was necessary to move forward.


It was nice to get offices, Bruce says, because then the engineers didn’t have to yell at each other. From small local jobs, he has moved to working on bigger systems, bigger and more elaborate ductwork, and new industries, like coal processing, grain, rubber, and wood dust. Bruce particularly remembers the Methuen project. “There were multiple floors in the building, really complex ductwork. It was a really great project to work on. Great learning experience.”


When you listen to Bruce talk about his time at Imperial Systems, two things stand out. One is his commitment to and love of learning: “If you don’t learn something new every day here, you must have been sleeping.” The other is a powerful sense of teamwork and sharing accomplishments with others. “We complement and balance each other,” he says. “As time went on we became more and more of a team. We depended on each other.” Bruce talks about his time at Imperial Systems as a time of team building, learning to build on each person’s skills, teaching each other, and becoming more skilled and more capable together than they could ever be on their own.

bruce_1  bruce_7

Bruce doesn’t talk about his own accomplishments as much as he talks, with great pride and affection, about how he and those around him grew together and built something great. He talks about the problems they solved, jobs that just kept growing, jobs that turned out to be more complicated than expected. He talks about how the company constantly moves forward, but what he doesn’t talk about is how necessary he was in making that happen. In his small, meticulously kept records, he counts 131 jobs he has worked on since 2013.


Jeremiah Wann doesn’t hold back when he talks about what Bruce has meant to the company and to him personally:


“Guys like Bruce are truly a dying breed. Good work ethic, pride in quality and workmanship today is really hard to come by. I have mixed feelings about his retirement. There is a part of me that wants to celebrate with him over his retirement but there is a huge part of me that wishes we could keep him forever. It’s a real life lesson for me in that, we have to train not only in skill but in work ethic and principles. Bruce has been one of my best all-time team members and I am really going to miss him. My biggest fear is that it’s going to be impossible to completely replace him.”


No matter how humble he is or how much credit he gives to those around him, Bruce has been a critical part of making Imperial Systems what it is and set an amazing example for all those who will take up his work after him. His work ethic and his willingness to celebrate the achievements of others makes Bruce a truly special person and he will be deeply missed.


All of us at Imperial Systems wish Bruce a wonderful, happy retirement. It is certainly earned and well-deserved.

Winter Maintenance: Be Prepared!

Your dust and fume collector can save you money on heating this winter. But to make the most of those savings, your system might need some winter maintenance. It’s that time of year when your dust collector system needs a little attention to make sure it’s ready for the demands of colder weather.





Winter maintenance means you’re going to want to start the new year with clean new filters… and you’re not going to want to be stuck changing them in the middle of a snowstorm.




It’s easy to forget about this little filter, but it’s necessary to keep the gauge readings accurate, and should be replaced whenever you replace your other filters.



If you’ve been working with the doors open during the warmer months and not running the dust collector as much, you might have dust accumulated, especially in high places or flat surfaces. For safety, try to remove as much of it as possible.



Airlock wipers should usually be changed once a year. Worn-out wipers don’t do their job properly. Winter maintenance is a good time to check them. When you replace wipers, you should also plan to replace the bearings.



If you’re in a cold area and your pulse valves have heaters to keep them from freezing up, make sure they’re working. Frozen pulse valves are an inconvenience nobody needs to deal with in frigid weather.



Again, these are not things you want to have breaking in the middle of nasty winter weather. A quick check and some preventative maintenance if necessary can save you a headache later.



Cold can make hoses more brittle and likely to break. If your compressed air hoses have any weak spots or look worn or damaged, now is a good time to make sure they get fixed or replaced.



As with the hoses, cold can make seals and gaskets crack or develop leaks. If any of them need replaced, doing it before the weather gets cold can save you from dealing with downtime from an unexpected leak.



If you have the tools to do it, this is a good time to calibrate the differential pressure gauge and make sure you’re getting accurate readings. These gauges need calibrated occasionally to give you the most accurate information




If you’re a CMAXXTM owner, lucky you! Your domed CrownTechTM roof will keep snow or ice from piling up on top of the collector. If you don’t have a CMAXXTM, make sure you keep an eye on the amount of snow or ice buildup, since that can cause leaks into the collector.

OSHA Guidelines For Hazard Prevention

OSHA just released the first recommended practices list in more than twenty years. Is it something you need to know about?


Probably. But you probably don’t have a few hours to spend browsing their website for information.


Save yourself some time. Here’s a summary of the important parts, and links to get you to the ones you want to know more about.




First off, here’s a quick guide to the process of implementing recommended practices:

osha guidelines

There are two areas of focus here: preparing and training people, and inspecting and improving facilities, equipment, and practices. If you need some more details, head to this link: https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/ten-easy-things.html





You’re going to have a hard time getting a safety program off the ground if management isn’t buying in. The OSHA guidelines recommend four basic steps below to make sure they’re with you:


If you need more details about things you should do to get management and leadership engaged, this is your place to look: https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/management-leadership.html




If getting your workers to be involved and serious about your safety program is a concern, here are OSHA’s suggested steps to make sure you have genuine worker investment:


So what does it take to get workers to care about and want to participate in your safety program? And what are some of the barriers to their participation? If this is a topic you’re interested in, here’s the place to go: https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/worker-participation.html




Before you can do anything about hazards in your workplace, you have to find them. Not just the obvious ones, either: there may be hazards that only people who use a particular machine or work in a particular area are aware of, for example.


Once you’ve identified the hazards that need to be addressed, what do you do about them? You look for ways to control them, starting with the most dangerous or the ones that can be easily eliminated. Getting workers involved in deciding what controls you’ll use is also a great step to get them more active in the program.



These are obviously the nuts and bolts of a safety program, but they don’t work if you haven’t gotten managers and workers on board and involved. Workers are probably the people most likely to know where the real hazards are and where things might go wrong, but they’re not likely to want to talk about it with management you’ve established a program where reporting a hazard is encouraged, not punished.


If hazard identification is your topic, check here: https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/hazard-Identification.html

If you’re moving past identification and ready to tackle prevention and control, this is your destination: https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/hazard-prevention.html




You can have a great program, but if nobody knows what they’re supposed to do or who is supposed to handle what part, you’re not going to get anywhere. Here’s the very basic breakdown:



OK, you’re probably going to need to get a little more in-depth than this. Fortunately, OSHA has some handy resources available, including training tools to help people get better at spotting hazards: https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/education-training.html



So you started a program, and you got everyone to participate, and things seem to be going really well. Or perhaps your program, for whatever reason, isn’t doing what you hoped it would do. Evaluation is the part where you figure out what’s going well and what’s not. And improvement is the part where you do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t.



If you’re working on a safety program and need to be able to report on how it’s going and what it’s doing for the company, check out OSHA’s suggestions and tools for figuring it out: https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/program-evaluation.html




There’s your very quick summary of OSHA Guidelines and Recommended Practices! If you need lots and lots more information, OSHA makes sure you have tons of links and helpful tools to check out on their “additional resources” page here: https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/program-evaluation.html.


As always, if you are looking for dust and fume collection or fire and explosion safety controls, we are here to help you with any information you need. This equipment is usually considered best practice for dealing with combustible dust, including spark arrestors, abort gates, and fire retardant dust collector filters.


(DISCLAIMER: This guide is not intended to be used in place of OSHA guidelines or actual recommendations. We hope it helps you get an overview of what’s available, but while we are dust and fume collection experts, we defer to those more knowledgeable when it comes to safety program design)

Dust Explosion Dangers Case Studies



A combustible dust explosion is an ever present danger for workers in many industries. These two examples show that despite increased awareness, explosive dust still puts lives at risk. One thing they both have in common: water may have actually made them much worse.

dust explosion

The first example shows how even things that seem like safe and practical fire-fighting measures can lead to disaster. In May, a grain dust explosion in a silo injured a worker who was attempting to put out a dust fire with water.


Because the very fine dust was contained in the silo, all the criteria for an explosion were present… except for one. The dust provided fuel for a fire, and the open silo hatch provided oxygen. With the material confined in the closed space of the silo and an ignition source in the form of a grain dryer, an explosion was waiting to happen.


Ironically, it was the worker spraying water onto the fire that created the explosion by adding the last element: dispersal of the dust. Water hitting the dust added more air and also raised a cloud of dust. Dust suspended in the air turns the situation from a fire into an explosion. In this case it blew the roof off the silo and caused serious injuries.

Fish Meal Dust?

The second example is in some ways a classic industrial dust explosion, except that the material isn’t one you’d expect. In September, a seafood processing plant was seriously damaged and had to be shut down because of an explosion caused by the ignition of fish meal dust.


Fish meal is a fine, dry powder that’s often made into fish food. A local official noted that this is the third time he knows of that fish meal has caused an explosion at a local plant. In this case, a burst pipe may have created an explosion by causing dust to become airborne.


While people don’t think of fish as being explosive, they usually don’t think of metal as being explosive either. Both of them are only dangerous when they’re turned into a dust.


While we talk a lot about combustible metal dust and fumes because many of the industries we work with use metals, organic dusts like grain, spices, powdered milk and egg, sugar, tobacco, and yes, even fish are dangerously explosive if all the right elements are present.


While many places that produce metal dust are aware of the risks, some places that produce organic dust don’t realize how dangerous it can be, or how important a dust collection system is for controlling and handling dust. The most catastrophic damage is often done by secondary explosions: a small dust explosion causes accumulated dust to be dispersed in the air, causing a much larger explosion. Spraying water on a dust fire can do the same thing, sending dust into the air.


Removing dust from the facility and collecting it with a dust collection system designed to prevent or safely control explosions is an important safety strategy. Making sure there is no dust dispersed in the air is another key to explosion prevention. In any situation with combustible dust, the system needs to be equipped with safety features such as spark arrestors, explosion venting, and chemical suppressors.







Workplace Hazard Exposure A Crime?

Yes, workplace hazard exposure is a serious offense.  As of this year, the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor (which includes OSHA) are partnering to bring federal charges against companies who expose workers to hazardous materials and carcinogens.

workplace hazard exposure


This partnership is intended to let prosecutors use powerful environmental protection laws to prosecute companies for worker safety violations involving exposure to dangerous substances. This will allow prosecutors working on OSHA worker exposure cases to work with the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice to maximize penalties and criminal charges.


In many cases, environmental protection laws are stricter and have stronger punishments than OSHA regulations. Environmental protection has wide public support and considerably more funding than occupational health and safety. There is an entire division of the Department of Justice that handles environmental crimes, and these may carry a much heavier fine or more serious criminal charges.


OSHA’s ability to level criminal charges is usually limited to situations where an employer willfully and knowingly violated safety standards and caused the death of a worker. These cases can be difficult to prove and even more difficult to prosecute. Under the laws regulating environmental crimes, releasing or failing to control any workplace hazard exposure to dangerous substances can be considered a crime, even if the exposure does not result in death or serious injury.


Just like with OSHA fines, the most serious criminal charges will go to employers who repeatedly violate the rules or who fail to correct problems even when they know about them. Bringing in the Department of Justice and their regulation of environmental laws is likely to affect companies who aren’t following the rules for controlling or cleaning up their hazardous materials.


Workplace hazard exposure includes materials such as dust and fumes from many types of industrial processes.  Some examples are welding, plasma or laser cutting, manufacturing of plastics and resins, printing inks and pigments, as well as production of chemicals or fertilizers.


OSHA usually sets exposure limits for employees. Environmental regulations set limits for how much of a material can be released into the environment, regardless of the exposure to individual employees. Under the Department of Justice, hazardous materials being released inside a facility can be handled under environmental laws.


For metalworking facilities, hexavalent chromium, manganese, and other components of cutting and welding fumes are heavily regulated as environmental toxins. Exposing people to these materials, inside or outside, can be an environmental crime. Hexavalent chromium often contaminates drinking water, and it’s a major environmental concern.


For any company that either uses or produces hazardous dust or fumes, a dust collection system is very important for limiting exposure. The system will not only keep the materials away from workers, but also collects them safely and allows you to dispose of them properly. A dust and fume collection system that’s maintained and used correctly is a necessary tool for controlling hazardous airborne particles or fumes.







Phosgene became infamous when it was used as chemical warfare in World War I. In numerous welding forums and opinion pieces, people share concerns about phosgene gas produced while welding.

Is this a fact or a myth?

phosgene gas

Phosgene is used in some industrial processes. It can also occur as a breakdown product from chemicals called chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents. These have names like trichloroethylene and methylene chloride.


These are very common chemicals. Pesticides, degreasing chemicals, and solvents are all examples. Older refrigerators also still contain coolants that can convert to phosgene when heated. According to the available information, phosgene is produced as a component of welding fumes when metal that’s been cleaned with a solvent or degreaser (brake cleaner is the usual culprit).


In one example, a man using repairing a refrigerator was exposed to phosgene as a result of heating the coolant with a welding torch. He suffered extreme shortness of breath and irritation to his throat and lungs. He was admitted to intensive care and recovered. There are many other stories of people reporting that they or someone they know was exposed to and injured by phosgene welding fumes.


So what are the facts?


Some brake cleaners, degreasers, and solvents do contain chlorinated hydrocarbons. These products carry a warning label about toxic gases and fumes, and some of them specifically mention phosgene. Warning labels, while not exciting reading, should always be followed. So it’s absolutely possible to poison yourself with phosgene if using these chemicals incorrectly.


Is it a real danger for welders?


There doesn’t seem to be much solid information about that. The example of the man who was injured while using a welding torch to work on an old refrigerator is true (Journal of Accident and Emergency Medicine, 12 pp212-213 (1995)). Many people report that they or someone else suffered an exposure to phosgene while welding something that had been cleaned with brake cleaner. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of reliable information about this problem, though. It’s definitely something that could happen, but there’s not much information about how often it actually does happen.


Do you know someone this has happened to, or has it happened to you? Have you ever experienced dangerous fumes while welding? Do you have any information about welding, phosgene gas, and brake cleaner that people should know about?





Energy Cost Savings Through Your Dust Collector


Installing a dust collection system (or updating an old one) is a big investment. Safety, health, and compliance are all important reasons to do so.  Will energy cost savings with this investment benefit your company in the long run? When a company is looking at spending that kind of money, it helps to be able to talk about a more immediate return on your investment.


The good news is that your new system can pay for itself in as little as two years by saving you a lot of money on heating and cooling costs.

energy cost

It’s hard to put a dollar amount on employee health, but it’s easy to put a dollar amount on how much you spend heating and cooling your building. If you’re spending that money and then venting heated air outside the building, you’re effectively blowing money out the window.


Many of our CMAXX systems have paid for themselves within two years just in energy cost savings. And they will continue to save their owners money for many years of service. Some companies have even been able to find energy conservation incentives that save them money on the immediate cost of a system.


Recirculating air back into the facility can be an excellent cost-saving measure, but only if it doesn’t compromise the health of people working there. This means that the recirculated air has to be completely clean and safe.


If you’re planning to recirculate air, it’s important to make sure that your system is equipped to handle the type of dust you’re producing. Particles from welding fumes and laser or plasma cutting smoke can be as small as half a micron. This usually requires a filter with a rating of at least MERV 15, meaning it is more than 95% effective for particles down to 0.3 microns. If there might be dangerous or highly regulated materials (such as hexavalent chromium) in the dust, a HEPA filter may be necessary for air that’s going to be returned inside.


Besides the savings on energy costs, a system that recirculates air can actually be more efficient. In some ambient systems, the clean air enters at the level where people are working, which moves the dirty air out of the work area and toward the collector. These types of systems are very effective at filtering the air in larger spaces.


If a dust and fume collector is something you’re going to need anyway, the tremendous savings in  your energy cost might be what it takes to get that project into the budget. After all, those heating and cooling cost savings will go back into the budget year after year, and that’s something everyone likes to hear.

OSHA Training Tool A Game? Yes.


You might actually find yourself playing this just to try for a high score. I’m not kidding.


For the sake of accurate reporting, I forced myself to test out this OSHA training tool. I even forced myself to test it more than once after I managed to crash my profits on the first try. This was completely for testing purposes and had nothing to do with being annoyed about losing.


Apparently someone at OSHA is a fan of farm or city management games, because their Hazard Identification Training Tool is really a time and resource game.


This OSHA training tool focuses on three different workplaces: construction, manufacturing, and an emergency room. Most relevant for most of the companies we work with would be manufacturing, which allows you to play as either an owner or a worker in a facility that manufactures metal parts.



In the game… err, OSHA training tool… you are challenged to balance profit and safety. You have a certain number of points to spend each week on safety tasks like inspecting machines, interviewing workers, and doing research. Any points you do not use contribute to your profit. However, major safety failures also wreck your profits, so you have to make your safety investments wisely.


Wait a minute. A government agency actually recognizes that companies have to balance their safety efforts with trying to make a living?


Yes, it seems like they do. And this game provides a lot of information, with each safety step you choose getting a rating of the hazard and a choice of whether or not to spend safety points fixing it. Since there are far more possible hazards than you have safety points for each week, you have no choice but to prioritize which safety issues to deal with first and which can probably wait.


Wait another minute. They’re not telling you that you have to fix all the hazards right this minute?


No. This OSHA training tool requires you to budget both time and money. It sounds almost like real life. Fixing hazards will cost money. An incident because of a safety hazard you didn’t fix will also cost money.



(Mark made it out OK this time, but it still took a chunk out of my profits.)


Some safety issues you’re presented with in the game are very simple to fix, like rearranging power cords so they’re not where people can trip over them. Others are more complicated, like installing machine guards, and some go all the way up to replacing broken machinery or installing engineering controls (such as a dust and fume collection system).


The best choices keep both your safety rating and your profit margin in the green. And some of them even make your job easier.


Talking to workers about the things they’re concerned about makes you better at finding hazards, so you can turn more points into profit. Workers will even report things to you so you can fix them, which is easier than finding them yourself.



(Uh-oh… there’s apparently a hazard in the stamping area. The folks in the receiving area are pretty happy, though.)


Some of the hazards you find are minor, and some aren’t. Each of them costs money to fix, but improves your safety rating. You can visually inspect a machine, watch people using it, or check the owner’s manual. You spend your money repairing exposed electrical wiring, putting up new shelving to store boxes properly, or fixing the air quality control in the paint booth. Or you can just tell them to quit playing football in the loading dock.


And best of all, how can anyone complain that OSHA training on hazard assessment is a waste of time? Clearly, this is valuable information.


Now, if they’d just improve the graphics a little…


Find it here: https://www.osha.gov/hazfinder/