Dust and fume hazards in the electronics industry can cause serious health problems if inhaled. Soldering presents a real risk, as the fumes from rosin core solder are one of the most significant causes of occupational asthma in the UK.
Rosin is designed to solder parts where it isn’t possible to remove flux residue. Key examples are electric circuit boards and electrical connections, where there isn’t a practical way of cleaning out the flux residue after soldering.
Life-changing health problems can arise from inhaling the fumes from rosin and its derivatives within solder fluxes. Continued exposure can cause asthma attacks and lung diseases that are incurable.
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Why is electronics dust a problem?
Electronics dust is a bigger problem than hazardous dusts in some other sectors, because the manufacturing processes are carried out in a closed environment to reduce humidity.
While the closed room is beneficial for the electronic products and components, it has the opposite effect on employees. They can suffer various irreversible industrial diseases.
Dust extraction systems in the electronics industry are vital for two key reasons: protecting employee health, as well as safeguarding sensitive electronic components from damage.
What are the main hazards in the electronics sector?
There are various dust and fume hazards in the electronics sector including solder fumes, chemical fumes and dust from metals, plastics, ceramics and cleaning agents.
As well as containing rosin, solder fumes can also contain metal vapour and particles. These occur when small components are joined together using a soldering iron to create molten metal.
They can cause irreversible damage to employee health over time, which emphasises the importance of solder fume extractors, such as downdraught benches.
The hazardous effect is further exacerbated due to the closed environment. Solder fume extraction can prevent vapours from building up, ensuring businesses in this sector adhere to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002.
Under the regulations, an employer must carry out a suitable risk assessment. Employee exposure should be prevented where practical, or it should be adequately controlled failing that.
Fume extraction is also important to prevent the build-up of chemical fumes, as the electronics manufacturing process requires the use of resins, solvents and cleaning agents.
All of these will release fumes, which may not be harmful in small amounts, but they will become hazardous in the longer term.
Protecting products from damage
As well as the risk to health in the electronics manufacturing sector, the components are at risk too. Certain types of electronic parts are susceptible to damage caused by electrostatic discharge. This is a charge that builds up when two parts rub together.
Electronics manufacturing environments must be moisture-free, as they can be conducive to static charge build-up. Electrostatic discharge sensitive (ESDS) equipment and devices can be destroyed if this occurs, so this is another reason why the workstation must be safe.
Failure to install the appropriate dust extraction systems can interfere with the circuitry. Dust and other particles can compromise the correct functioning of electronic circuits and components, causing malfunctions and even complete failure.
Dust build-up can lead to the build-up of heat. This can further damage electronic circuits, reducing their reliability and lifespan.
The accumulation of dust and other particles can contaminate the electronic components’ surfaces, causing corrosion and other damaged.
When you take all of these things into consideration, there is surely only one way forward!