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Maintaining aerosols: Best practice goes beyond product selection

Maintenance is arguably the most important step in the life cycle of any application. Regardless of how effective a piece of equipment operates, performance inevitably declines over time unless it is cared for appropriately. Likewise, maintenance products such as aerosols require proper consideration to remain safe and effective. Here, Peter Crossen, VP of the Maintenance and Partsmaster platform at global water, energy and maintenance solutions provider NCH Europe, explains how to keep aerosols in good condition.

Maintenance engineers face numerous challenges in ensuring that equipment and machinery is operating effectively. Due to the differing requirements of applications, many engineers believe that the challenge simply lies in specifying the right product and abiding by a strict maintenance routine.

However, engineers must also ensure that the product itself is stored, handled and disposed of effectively. Luckily, there are simple steps that can be followed to ensure best practice in using aerosol maintenance products.

Effective aerosol storage

Just as maintenance engineers must accurately assess the environment where an aerosol product is applied, storage conditions must also be reviewed. Moisture in the air, for example, can lead to canisters rusting, which results in a less effective spray or even leaking. For this reason, aerosols should be stored indoors.

However, the most important storage consideration is that they are kept in well ventilated areas and not subject to flames, extreme temperatures or direct sunlight. The contents of most aerosols are of a low environmental hazard and the risks come mainly from fire; they could become missiles if they overheat. Ideally aerosols will be stored in cages.

Another important consideration is to ensure that they are actually kept in storage. During site surveys, our engineers often find aerosol degreaser cans have been left on the plant floor, which is a significant health and safety concern. These aerosols could be caught under a vehicle’s wheels and the pressure would puncture the can, resulting in the product exploding.

Right way to spray

Even if an aerosol is the perfect fit for a specific application, its qualities are redundant if it is not being used correctly.

Many maintenance engineers are responsible for large areas and are expected to conduct tasks quickly. This is largely why aerosol products are ideal in the first instance. However, when rushed, engineers often confuse different products, and grabbing a lubricant when you want a degreaser can have disastrous consequences!

It may be common sense, but best tip for ensuring aerosol effectiveness is to read the label.

Aerosol paints and coatings

Most aerosol paints and coatings contain solid materials that can settle in storage. As such, it is essential to shake the can for a full minute until the agitator ball begins to rattle before use. This ensures the contents are fully mixed before application. Then, after use, you need to clear the nozzle to prevent it from clogging during storage. This is done by simply inverting the can and giving a few short sprays until only the spray comes out.

Safe disposal

Safe disposal of aerosols is essential for plant health and safety. While many plant managers understand that aerosols must be placed in hazardous waste disposal, few realise that cans must also be isolated from other waste.

However, aerosol cans are largely made from steel or aluminium and can be recycled. Before recycling, the can must be punctured and any remaining content removed. This will need to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Puncturing must be carried out by trained personnel wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) in a designated area set aside for this activity.

While specifying the right aerosol product for an application is vital, it is equally important that the product is cared for properly from purchase to disposal. By following a few simple best practice tips, maintenance engineers can maximise plant safety, product effectiveness and production efficiency.

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