Air pollution is a problem indoors as well as out. In the workplace, it might be welding gases, engine exhaust in a repair shop, fumes from quick-starting emergency-response vehicles or the oily fog from cutting fluids in a mechanical workshop. The Swedish company Nederman offers solutions to indoor air pollution and much more.

Indoor environmental regulations get tougher by the year, and dirty industrial shops are not only unhealthy for workers but hard on tools and production processes as well. Protecting employee health and product quality requires a clean indoor environment, which means keeping levels of dust, smoke and volatile chemical compounds as low as possible.

Of course there are any number of ways to avoid the creation of pollutants in the first place, from changes in processes and replacement of materials to enclosures and automation. While these measures can make a huge difference, it’s still hard to conceive of an industrial workplace without some form of advanced ventilation system. International standards are increasingly important in driving the trend toward safer workplaces, and the general increase in air pollution consciousness has made all stakeholders more aware of the connections between the workplace environment and human health.

The 60-year-old company Nederman, based in Helsingborg, Sweden, began its focus on environmental technology before the concept was widely established. Since beginning to develop fume extractors and fans for welders in the 1950s, Nederman has grown into a global player with industrial customers throughout Europe, as well as wind power manufacturers in China, museums in Egypt, railroads in India and automobile inspection shops in Turkey.

A typical workshop with welding and metalworking stations. Fumes are captured close to the point of creation with specialized extraction arms and vacuum technology.

A typical workshop with welding and metalworking stations. Fumes are captured close to the point of creation with specialized extraction arms and vacuum technology.

Cleaning welding gases

Welding and flame cutting industries employ more than 700,000 people in Europe, and a number of health risks are associated with the occupation. Welding involves intense levels of ultraviolet light as well as extreme heat and toxic fumes composed of both particulates and gases. The chemical composition of these fumes depends on the metal being welded as well as the electrodes used, with chrome, nickel and zinc considered the most hazardous for workers. Welding gases include carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and ozone. Welders often suffer eye and lung damage, and have a higher risk of contracting lung cancer than the general population. Many countries have adopted (or plan to adopt) regulations aimed at reducing exposure to welding gases.

Nederman’s systems are based on vacuuming up and separating welding gases (or other particulates, fibers and exhausts) at the point of creation, preventing their distribution in the surrounding air. The technology is efficient, requiring less energy than centralized ventilation systems.

Adapted to different pollutants

By creating a strong air flow and high vacuum pressure, larger particulates can be sucked up and filtered out near the pollution source. This vacuum technology is suitable for grinding and cutting dust as well as cleaning machinery and workplaces. Nederman’s vacuum applications include large stationary installations, mobile units and a variety of hand tools.

When there’s a risk of air pollution comprised of finer particles, low-vacuum solutions can be the better solution. This may include certain types of welding and handling of raw materials in powder form for pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs. Suction is achieved with arms, nozzles and cowlings placed close to the pollution source.

Global expansion

Founded during World War II as a small metalworking shop, Nederman’s global expansion has given the company sales offices in 25 countries serving about 50 national markets. Machine industries are the primary target for Nederman’s systems for capturing and filtering welding fumes as well as a diverse range of equipment for keeping workshops clean and well organized.

The trend toward ever-greater industrial automation and steady pressure to increase output has added to requirements for environmentally sound and cost-effective handling of by-products. The traditional manual treatment of metal shavings and cutting fluids has long had negative effects on both the workplace environment and the outside air, water and land. New technology is making it possible to profitably improve environmental performance with automated systems, and this is the field that Nederman has chosen to attack with its technical solutions and global reach. Interest in improving the workplace environment while cutting down on external pollution is helping the company find new markets for its products.

Article published in September 2009.