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Trike and industry are deadly chemical brothers, warns industry expert

Deadly solvent trichloroethylene is a contributing factor in almost a third of all fatalities in the UK's surface engineering industry, a leading expert has claimed.

Clive Ward, general manager of the Clean-Tek product range at world leading surface preparation specialists Wheelabrator Group, is concerned the industry's love affair with the potentially cancer-causing metal degreaser is continuing unabated, despite its use being curtailed by the Solvents Emissions Directive (SED) from October 31.

Mr Ward said: "We believe trichloroethylene, more commonly know as trike, currently contributes to almost a third of industry deaths. However, despite the alarming statistics, companies are still using it, frequently in open top vapour degreasing tanks, some over 40 years old."

The SED will restrict emissions from organic solvents, such as trike, to limit worker exposure and protect health. It was passed by the EU in 1999 and gave businesses eight years to implement changes, including ensuring worker exposure does not exceed the agreed threshold limit value of 100ppm.

Mr Ward claimed late last year that more than half of the UK's manufacturing and engineering companies using trike were failing to prepare for the SED, therefore risking prosecutions by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

From October 31, companies failing to comply with the emission limits set under the SED will face investigation.

Mr Ward said: "As well as hefty fines from the HSE, firms may be hit by increasing compensation claims for associated health problems from affected employees.

"Health and safety in the workplace is the responsibility of employers. The problem appears to be that many company bosses still don't allocate a budget for switching to a safer environment, as the cleaning and degreasing operation is not seen as a productive part of any industrial production process.

"Industry leaders must change their stance on this in the same way consumers have over smoking, alternative energy sources and lowering cholesterol, or we'll continue to see deaths caused by trike."

Mr Ward said the advantages of moving to aqueous forms of degreasing were obvious.

He said: "In addition to escaping prosecution and lowering running costs comes the benefits of being able to draw a 'competitive advantage' by using their 'green-ness' in their advertising campaigns and other promotional events, as well as being safe in the knowledge their staff are protected."

Mr Ward called on employers to use this opportunity to evaluate their long-term use of solvents, eradicate them from their operation by harnessing alternative methods and put safety ahead of short-term profit.

He said: "Aqueous cleaning, for example, is no longer the costly process it once was and is highly effective at removing grease, oil, dust, tar, carbon, dirt and other contaminants. The time to remove solvents from industry is now."

"Water-based systems, such as the Clean-Tek ranges of top-load, front-load and conveyor spray wash cleaning systems and ultrasonic tanks, are easy to install into established production lines and require minimal training. They also help companies minimise the environmental impact of their operations, by using 95 per cent water and five per cent aqueous non-hazardous detergent."

Help can be found by talking to a specialist and reviewing the equipment available. Any companies concerned about problems relating to trike or this legislation may benefit from attending the technical forums Wheelabrator Group will be running later this year.

Wheelabrator Group owns, designs, manufactures and provides wheelblast, airblast and vibratory mass finishing equipment for surface preparation and cleaning, and serves a variety of sectors, including the aerospace and automotive industries.

Press release issued by Wheelabrator Group, Ltd. on February 16, 2007


 Contact details from our directory:
Wheelabrator Group, Ltd. Blast Finishing Services, Shot Peening, Polishing & Buffing, Metal Treatment, Abrasive Materials, Fatigue Enhancement, Metal Finishing/Polishing, Nonabrasive Finishing, Paint Stripping, Blast Finishing Equipment, Blast Finishing Media, Degreasing Chemicals


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