Employers should understand the dangers of 3D printing to workers

| Sep 4, 2020 | Operational Risk Management |

Our state has quickly become a hot bed for entrepreneurs and new businesses. One of the new technologies many of these businesses employ is 3D printing. However, employers should know that this new technology is not without its own harms to their employees.

Ultrafine Particles

In fact, many of these 3D printers (also called, additive manufacturing), generate numerous volatile organic compounds and ultrafine particles, and each can harm employees. If inhaled, UFPs can irritate lungs, penetrate the pulmonary system, and cause respiratory and chest discomfort, including asthma. Exposure for longer periods of time can lead to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Volatile Organic Compounds

VOCs have their own risks as well. Exposure to VOCs can cause flu-like symptoms, eye and nose irritation, and headaches.

Exposure UFPs and VOCs are intensified by environmental conditions. This includes poor ventilation, individual workstations with 3D printers and small workshops can increase exposure and the resulting negative health effects.

3D Printing Safety Suggestions

Poor ventilation and small spaces exacerbate exposure. As such, improving ventilation (using HEPA filters, ventilated enclosures, etc.) and growing a business’s footprint will help.

Reducing the nozzle temperature to the lower or lowest suggested temperature can help, but this will require experimenting to see the lowest temperature quality printing can still occur. The lower the temperature, the lower the amount of potential hazardous chemicals.

There are also filaments, print media and printers specifically designed to reduce emissions. If possible, employers should look into these methods before purchasing their equipment.

Developing standard operating procedures to reduce exposure is recommended, like mandating that employees should not eat or drink near the printer or even be near it while in use. Personal protective equipment can help, including respiratory protection equipment.

The fact that these seemingly innocuous machines can have such dangerous shows how important it is to consult with employment law attorneys when developing policies and procedures. This will help protect both the employee and employer.