The pulp and paper industry is one of the largest industrial sectors in the world. It is estimated that the global production of paper and cardboard was almost 420 million metric tons in 2018. Over half of this production is destined to packaging paper while the remaining third was attributed to graphic paper. 

China, the United States and Japan are the three leading producers of paper, generating together over half of the world production.

Originating mainly from forestry products, paper is made by pressing together moist cellulose fibres which are converted into pulp. These are then dried and flattened into sheets which are thin and very flexible. Sometimes synthetic materials can be used to add special qualities to the finished paper and used paper can also be widely recycled into new products.

As a hugely versatile material, paper has many uses including printing, packaging, writing as well as numerous industrial and construction processes. Paper is manufactured at industrial plants called paper mills, and work is often divided into different sections depending on the process occurring. The paper mill processes include truck operation to move the raw materials to the mill, cutting and slicing of the paper and machine setters that operate the paper goods and printing machines.

Paper dust

Paper plays a hugely important role in our lives and has done for many years. However, the production process that is involved in manufacturing paper and the paper dust it creates can cause workers in the industry a variety of health issues.

Paper dust is produced when paper is manufactured or processed in a variety of ways, which causes tiny, dry dust particles, powders or residues to flow in the air. Breathing in large amounts of this dust can cause damage to the lungs depending on the size and nature of the dust particles. In general, if the particle size is small, the dust will tend to be more dangerous for human health. As such, when discussing the dangers associated with exposure to dust, particularly fine dust particles, levels can be very high, as once inhaled, the dust can become embedded in the lungs, and can be very difficult to drive out.

Recycled paper can generate more dust when compared to other types of paper, due to the smaller size of the particles. Dust can also be generated during the sorting and storage of paper materials.

The type of dust inhaled is also important as it can be toxic or irritant. Substances such as asbestos can produce larger dust particles or fibres causing toxicity in the dust, which, once inhaled, can be very harmful to health, causing lung damage and damage to other organs too. Paper dust is one of many materials that can irritate the lungs and the respiratory tract, but the danger comes even more from inhaling concentrated amounts.

Dust risks and how to reduce them

When it comes to the inhalation of paper dust, the working environment is where the risk of exposure is at its highest, particularly in the paper industry, where many of the paper-making processes produce tiny fibre particles.

Paper mills use equipment and materials that can contain asbestos including sandpaper and drying machines and previous paper mill employees are amongst the high numbers who seek compensation for asbestos-related illnesses each year.

Reducing the occupational risks associated with dust is much more realistic than trying to eliminate dust. Ways to achieve this include, reducing the exposure time to dust, conducting a complete risk assessment of the workplace, supplying workers with the correct respiratory and other PPE to provide proper protection, providing exposed workers with frequent medical evaluations, and finally at the first signs of any form of respiratory problems, to remove workers from the dust source.

Once the dust exposure risks have been identified it is important to look at ways to reduce and control them within the workplace. These could include, trying to limit the accumulation of paper dust within paper mills by utilising Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) or General Dilution Ventilation. Another critical, but often overlooked procedure, is personnel clean-down operations, which carried out at the end of a shift, can be an important and successful way to reduce exposure and to stop dust becoming airborne.

Is there a safer solution for removal?

When it comes to removing paper and tissue dust, particularly from paper mills and other contaminated work areas, in contrast to using compressed air, which can be expensive and potentially dangerous, blower-driven air has been shown to provide a safer and highly effective means of removing fibres, dust and water from people, surfaces and environments.

Removal of such dust and debris from the personnel is particularly important where they might be entering break-rooms, canteens and other similar environments as this will help to avoid cross-contamination.

By using blower-driven air, the JetBlack Safety range of personnel Cleaning Booths can provide a safer and more convenient solution for personnel clean-down. What’s more, the product range has been designed as an easy-to-use alternative to compressed air, as the low pressure, high-velocity air produced poses no threat to the safety and can be directed at almost any part of the body. This gives organisations peace of mind and users a safer solution for all de-dusting operations.

The JetBlack Safety Cleaning Booth is particularly suited to agitating and removing dust from employees’ work clothes; a process which typically takes no longer than 30 seconds. The dust is then safely extracted away from the user and collected in the HEPA H14 extractor.

Personnel Cleaning Booth applications include:

  • Paper Manufacturing and Processing
  • Recycling plants
  • Textile Plants
  • Construction Sites