Housekeeping: Get Back on Track


Housekeeping: Get Back on Track

The slow season is a perfect time
to get sawdust cleaned up in your plant

Slower production schedules during the winter months allow component manufacturers (CMs) to retool and refocus. Due to the focus of recent OSHA inspections, one area to pay particular attention to is the combustible dust housekeeping procedures in your facility.

Sawdust can build up in a variety of places, so even if you’re taking the time each day or shift to clean up, there are probably some places you’re missing. Now is the time to re-establish a baseline an OSHA inspector would approve. Paying special attention to your difficult-to-reach or rarely-cleaned areas is a great place to start.

Schedule regular inspections (once a week, then once a month, then once every three months) to ensure you never have sawdust build-up thicker than a quarter.

As you clean, minimize the amount of sawdust you disperse by using the right tools and techniques. Soft cotton or synthetic fiber mops are least likely to throw particles back into the air while collecting sawdust for disposal. Hard bristles, on the other hand, can easily stir up fine dust that will re-settle on hard-to-reach surfaces. If hard-bristled brushes and brooms are all you have, use small, deliberate strokes to reduce the amount of airborne dust. Very low pressure compressed air can also be used, but the nozzle should be kept pointed downward while using slow, measured cleaning patterns.

Wet/dry vacuums are another way to take care of sawdust. They have the advantage of dramatically reducing the amount of sawdust sent into the air compared to sweeping or compressed air. However, their biggest limitation is the volume of sawdust they can collect. Although they come in many shapes and sizes, if you have a choice, choose a wet/dry vacuum with the motor on the side. This design keeps the motor, a potential source of ignition, as far away from the collected sawdust as possible.

When you’ve finished sweeping, mopping or vacuuming, dispose of the sawdust in an appropriate sawdust storage container. Any storage bin used to collect and hold sawdust should be metal and have a tight-fitting metal lid. If you have a sawdust collection bin outside your facility, ensure that it is not located near any source of ignition such as electrical outlets, motors or designated smoking areas.

Clean from the top down by starting with elevated horizontal surfaces and finishing with sawdust accumulations on the floor.
About the Author: Molly E. Butz worked with CMs to develop the original SBCA Operation Safety Program and has over 12 years of experience helping CMs develop and maintain safety best practices. For information on SBCA Safety Programs visit