The potential impact of the use of compressed air for the removal of residual metalworking fluids on health was investigated using a test chamber approach followed by a workplace study. The former had the advantage in that the background levels of particles could be reduced significantly. The greatest risk was found to be dermal exposure due to large droplets of MWF coating the worker’s torso and arms. The visualisation of respirable mist using back lighting was not a reproducible phenomenon in either setting but in the test chamber, the use of particle counters revealed that a reduction in compressed air pressure decreased the levels of respirable particles. Microbial contamination did not appear to alter the concentrations of particles or their size distribution. However, background levels of airborne particles in the 'well managed' workshops visited were sufficiently high to mask any increase in particle concentrations due to the use of compressed air but dermal exposure was observed.
This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.
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