OSHA Compliance for Cleaning Solvents

OSHA Compliance for Cleaning Solvents

osha compliance for cleaning solvents

OSHA Compliance for Cleaning Solvents

How to prepare your cleaning process to be compliant for future regulations

Update (May 3, 2024): The EPA has finalized a ban on most uses of methylene chlorida. It will be fully phased out for all consumer use and most industrial and commerical uses within a year. Exempt companies will have up to 18 months to establish a clear employee protection plan.

Parts cleaning is an important part of the manufacturing industry. For a long time, chemicals and solvents have been a staple in these processes. These solvents provide many benefits to the cleaning application. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are seeking to establish new regulations regarding the use of chemicals, both old and new, under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In an effort to increase worker safety, the EPA has been working to eliminate the use of harmful chemicals in industrial process.

Many harmful cleaning solvents contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are sizable collections of carbon-based chemicals that evaporate into the air. This can compromise worker safety due to the harmful effects of inhaling certain chemicals in the work area. This article serves to help manufacturers maintain OSHA compliance on cleaning solvents regulations.

Common symptoms of short-term exposure to high levels of chemicals are:

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea / Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Worsening of asthma symptoms
  • Chemical burns

Common symptoms for long-term exposure to high levels of chemicals are:

  • Cancer
  • Liver Damage
  • Kidney Damage
  • Central Nervous System Damage

In June of 2018, EPA published documents that detail the risks of commonly used and harmful chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In 2020, the EPA issued the “Final Chemical Risk Evaluations” for various solvents. Most evaluated chemical assessments contain direct statements that the EPA has determined, “use of these substances presents unreasonable risk to human health”. Several commonly used degreasing solvents were listed in the report:

  • 1 Bromopropane (nPB)
  • Methylene Chloride (MC)
  • N-Methyl pyrrolidone (NMP)
  • Perchloroethylene (PERC)
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE)

In January 2022, the EPA released a proposed screening method for public comment and peer review. This was done with intentions to evaluate the potential exposures and associated risks with surrounding communities. The next steps required by the TCSA is to develop a plan to reduce and/or eliminate the risks associated with these solvents. A final rule is expected in the near future, but there are some states that are taking matters into their own hands and banning certain chemicals. Being proactive will save companies in the long run.

Planning Ahead for Regulations

While in a waiting period for a pending solution to these harmful chemicals, the suggestion is to take action now. Not only are the solvents in question harmful to the environment and people, they may soon come with a hefty fine for their use. It’s vital to be diligent in preparing a plan for compliance. If no plan is put in place for the pending regulations, then you’ll be left scrambling to make fast and expensive changes without the luxury of time to plan accordingly. There are multiple options that you can consider when looking into compliance including:

Aqueous Cleaning Process

Aqueous cleaning provides a great cleaning option for a variety of processes. But can often be limited by the types of metal and contaminants each unit can clean. This can increase the floor space being used in cleaning processes.

    • No need for solvents that can be harmful to the environment or workers. Capabale of effectively cleaning using less harmful detergents, inhibitors and other solutions.
    • Very effective with water soluble contaminants.
    • Can plug into a facility to allow parts to continuously flow throughout processing.
    • Types of equipment include cabinet, conveyor, indexing, monorail, rotary, or drum parts washers.

View our selection of aqueous cleaning solutions here.

conveyor parts washer

Convert to Alternate Solvent

Partner with your solvent or chemistry supplier, or utilize our lab, to test various solvents that can work in your process.

Convert to Vacuum Degreasing Technology

Vacuum degreasing technology is quickly growing as one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly processes for cleaning parts. Learn more about vacuum vapor degreasing here.

vacuum vapor degreaser

Benefits to the Vacuum Degreasing Process

Degreasing cleaning systems are ideal for applications where oil has been used in the machining of the parts. Water-soluble coolants aren’t as effective as the oil-based solvents when cleaning these machined components. Here are some other benefits of degreasing cleaning systems:

  • Low Emissions
  • Low Chemical Consumption
  • Reduced energy use
  • Fully enclosed cleaning chamber – reducing EHS concerns
  • Parts are dried in the cleaning chamber, no separate stage needed
  • Greatly reduced operator exposure
  • Reduced maintenance and downtime
  • Reclaim clean and dry chips and fines
  • Reclaim cutting oils for reuse

Recommended Replacement Solvents

  • Modified Alcohols
  • HFOs
  • HFEs
  • Refined Hydrocarbons
  • Trans Blends

Benefits to these solvents:

      • Highest PEL Limits for Personnel Safety
      • Lowest Global Warming Potential
      • Lowest Surface Tension
      • VOC FREE or Very Low Rating
      • Non-flammable
        • Carbon Footprint Contribution
        • Operation Temperature
        • Multi-metals / Lubes Compatibility
        • Rapid Drying – Generally Residue Free
        • Stability

        Things you should consider when looking at compliance:

        Staying compliant with OSHA and EPA standards will help avoid forced shutdowns, fines, and health concerns of employees. There are a lot of factors you need to consider when looking to make a change in your cleaning processes. Here is a breakdown of some of the things you need to take into consideration to plan your transition.

        EHS Concerns – What changes do you need to ensure all operators and employees near the operations remain safe before, during, and after the change in application.

        Production Flow – What is the current production flow of parts through the cleaning process and how will a new piece of equipment affect the flow? What is the current cycle time compared to the new cycle time post-conversion?

        Production Shutdown – A transition will most likely cause a production shutdown. This will be affected by a number a factors including the amount of time to remove and install new equipment, set up time, and calibration. If just switching chemistry, shutdowns will most likely be shorter, but knowing how long you’ll be down is important for planning production goals.

        Total cost – The cost involved in transitioning your cleaning process has a lot of components including the cost of new equipment, change in cost of the chemistry and transportation, change in energy usage for the new process, and waste disposal for different solvents.

        Are You Still Using TCA, nPB, or Other Harmful Chemicals?

        If you’re still using harmful chemicals iny our cleaning process, contact our team today and discuss OSHA compliance and worker safety. Our team will find the best process for your cleaning requirements.

        8 Things To Consider When Selecting An Industrial Parts Washer

        8 Things To Consider When Selecting An Industrial Parts Washer

        8 Things To Consider When Selecting an Industrial Parts Washer

        8 Things to Consider When Selecting an Industrial Parts Washer

        Aqueous parts washers are grouped into two classifications of parts washing equipment: spray parts washers, and immersion parts washers. Each method of cleaning is effective for different applications and types of parts. Understanding how each type of parts washer works is an important part of the equipment selection process. Now, let’s dive into how each one works.

        Main Types of Parts Washers

        Spray Parts Washers

        A spray parts washer utilizes high pressure spray nozzles to remove contaminants. While water is the main cleaning agent, aqueous cleaners can be added within the process. Spray washers have built-in blowoff options to help remove moisture after the cleaning process. Spray washers come in many types of systems including cabinets, conveyor, monorail, and more. The cleaning processing time is usually quick.

        conveyor parts washer

        Immersion Parts Washers

        The immersion parts washing process utilizes a basket holding the parts that are then dipped into the tank of water and solution. The chemical energy of the solutions works with the mechanical energy of the equipment to remove the contaminants. Agitation and ultrasonics can be added for extra cleaning power. This is ideal for parts with a lot of small cavities. The cleaning processing time usually takes longer.

        agitation parts washer

        Considerations for Selecting an Industrial Parts Washer

        Now that we have a base knowledge of how each type of parts washer functions. Let’s address some things you need to consider when selecting what type of parts washer equipment is best for your cleaning application.

          1. Cleaning Chemistry

          Prior to selecting the parts cleaning equipment, the chemistry needs to be addressed by asking whether aqueous or solvent based cleaning best for your application. The contaminants that you are cleaning are the key factor in this decision. Tough oils require a different process than other contaminants. Therefore, knowing what will be cleaned off the parts is an important process in determining your cleaning chemistry.

          Here is a breakdown of aqueous and solvent solutions:

          Benefits of Solvent

          • Cleans oil better and faster than aqueous.
          • Best material compatibility (multi-metal compatibility).
          • Water free process = no flash rust and quicker drying time.
          • Can clean at lower temperatures.
          • Has a longer bath life and can be distilled/re-used for overall cost reduction.
          • Allows for adjusting time.
          • Best fit: applications with precise cleaning specifications.

          Benefits of Aqueous

          • Can clean a variety of contaminants (oil, water-soluble coolants, rust, carbon).
          • Allows for adjustment of time, concentration, and temperature.
          • Environmentally safe.
          • Easy and economic disposal.
          • Low cost per gallon.
          • Best fit: remanufacturing and tough-to-clean applications.

          When selecting your chemistry, you need to think about the solution concentration, temperature needed requirements, exposure period, and waste management. It’s suggested to have your parts test cleaned to find the best chemistry for your application.  Learn more about cleaning chemistry here.

            2. Cleaning Parameters and Specifications

            The four main components to cleaning parameters and specifications for consideration are temperature, concentration, duration, and dryness. Parts washers vary in the options they can provide to meet these parameters. Depending on the needs of the cleanliness specs, you may need multiple cleaning stages or blow-off/drying stages.

            When your parts have cleanliness specifications that need to be met, make sure that the equipment can meet them. You can request a test on the parts to ensure that it meets your standards. There are multiple methods of testing we provide in our lab including white glove/cotton swab, dyne, millipore, and gravimetric testing.

              3. Part Geometry

              Complex parts with multiple or long cavities require extra consideration when selecting a washer. Immersion with vertical agitation and/or ultrasonics is often the best fit for these cavities, but other times strategically aimed spray nozzles is the best method.

              custom industrial parts washer

                4. Batch Processing vs Continuous Processing

                The overall processing needs of your parts manufacturing will help determine the type of parts cleaning system you select. Will you be washing parts in batches, or will you need a continuous cleaning process?

                The batch cleaning process allows for greater flexibility in the shape and quantity of parts you clean at a time. The continuous cleaning process does offer some flexibility. However, they are designed to process similar shapes and quantities of parts at a high rate to keep the overall manufacturing process running quickly and without interruption.

                parts washer basket

                Batch Processing

                monorail parts washer

                Continuous Flow

                  5. Material Handling

                  One aspect of part flow that needs to be considered with your equipment plans is material handling. The most common method is manual loading the parts onto a conveyor, table or into a basket. Auto-loading or robotics increase reliability in the parts handling process by removing the operator from the position and allowing them to focus on other duties. Determining how the parts will get to and from the parts cleaning equipment will play a factor in the long-term floor space needed for the project.

                    6. Production Volume

                    Some parts washers are ideal for small batches of cleaning per cycle, while others are ideal for large batches in an ongoing process. Identify your batch size and the number of batches that need to be cleaned per shift.

                      7. Facility Layout

                      Facility layout and flow can factor into the type of equipment you select for your parts washing process. We all know that floorspace is a premium and can be hard to come by. Matching the parts cleaning parameters with the available floorspace is a vital step in selecting a parts cleaning system.

                      If your production line runs on an in-line and automated system, then you’ll want to look at a parts washer that can be integrated into that system. The other item to look at is speed. Ask yourself, “how quickly do the parts need to be washed before continuing with production?”

                        8. Budget

                        Now comes the part of the discussion no one really wants to talk about, budget. As with most industrial equipment solutions, the more options there are, the higher the cost. Knowing the required specifications, expected volume, and desired outcomes will help you determine the size of budget you should invest into parts washing equipment.

                        There are often other costs associated with a parts cleaning application that can be forgotten in the planning process such as:

                        • Utility costs
                        • Regular bath maintenance – draining, cleaning and re-filling the solution/water mixture
                        • Waste water management and disposal

                        Don’t be caught off guard by these expenses when planning your budget.

                        Now You’re Ready to Research Your Parts Cleaning Needs

                        When selecting a parts washer, there are many things to consider. However, the most important consideration is your part(s) and the contaminant(s) that you will be cleaning. In simple terms, if the parts surface is mostly visible with simple shapes, spray washing is usually ideal. If your part needs to soak or has non-visible surfaces, immersion is typically ideal. There will be exceptions, so it is best to talk to a trained cleaning consultant about your needs first, then request a lab test.

                        Remember that everything covered here can help confirm whether or not a specific parts washer system is right you.

                        Ready To Test Your Parts?

                        Take advantage of our processing labs to test chemistry and parts cleaning processes to ensure you have the best process for your applicaiont. Talk to our team today!