Where it all started…

When the north wind doth blow, we shall…close all the windows to keep the cold out!

Borrowing this chilly sentiment from the children’s nursery rhyme, winter is the time of year when we keep doors and windows shut tight, whether at home or at work.

While this lack of fresh air has little impact on our domestic routines, historically it was the cause of significant health issues for workers in factories employing a ‘fresh air’ approach to removing potentially harmful airborne contaminants.

It was in the cool climes of Scandinavia that the origins of fume and dust extraction were established over 30 years ago. The electronics industry noticed an increase in respiratory illness during winter months – and had the foresight to link this to increased exposure to colophony fumes as a result of poor air circulation. In summer, when windows and doors were open, the situation was better, although not perfect.

Dave Cornell
Dave Cornell

At that time, our Scandinavian friends were advanced in their health studies, and their appreciation of the risks of occupational asthma led to the development of the first rudimentary filtration system safeguarding PCB assembly line operators. It was this system that came to the attention of BOFA founder Dave Cornell, who spearheaded the introduction of such technology into the UK.

These were pre-COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) days but enlightened health and safety officers at companies such as Rediffusion Simulation and Phillips Telecommunications had noticed a direct link between absenteeism and exposure to fume and, working alongside BOFA, they championed the introduction of extraction systems.

They soon noticed that operator health improved… and productivity went up. It was then that managers started to view fume and dust extraction technology not as a cost but as an investment.

Over 30 years on, and we now know much more about the risk to human health presented by all manner of fume and dust created by industrial processes. Yet even now, there can sometimes be a surprising lack of knowledge about statutory workplace exposure limits and risk to health, particularly where any potentially harmful activity is carried out intermittently.

BOFA technicians still come across businesses using desk fans as air displacement units in the mistaken belief that this offers adequate operator protection, when in fact it’s just contaminating the surrounding area. For some, this approach results from a lack of knowledge, for others it’s a resource issue, but whatever the reason, the financial penalties and impact on brand can be severe, let alone the cost to human health.

That said, the vast majority of employers want to provide the best possible protection for their people, which is why BOFA is increasingly viewed as a partner – not a supplier – in creating safe working environments.

For example, BOFA experts are frequently called-in by customers to train operators in the optimal use of extraction systems. And the company’s world-class research and development centre is increasingly in demand as companies grapple with the speed of innovation in technologies, materials and processes.

Businesses face a constantly shifting landscape, but with BOFA’s customer service ethos our door is always open… unlike those factories in Sweden all those years ago.