EHS Conference highlights best practices and innovations; recognizes industry achievements

Metalcasters heard the latest regulatory news, discussed recent advancements in best practices, and explored new technologies and services from industry suppliers at a pair of EHS conferences last month. Well over 100 people attended the 34th Environmental, Health and Safety Conference and its sister event, the 2022 Safety 101 Seminar, both hosted by AFS at the Milwaukee Hyatt Regency October 2-6.

Highlights included fresh information on fall protection, alternative methods for the control of hazardous energy, best practices in worker’s comp claims management, management of change, and cupola heat reclamation, to name a few. Other topics included environmental justice, carbon reduction, life cycle assessment, hearing conservation, and OSHA inspections under the respirable silica national emphasis program.

Several EHS awards were presented at the conference. Metalcasting Safe Year Awards, which recognize AFS Corporate Member facilities at a single location that have achieved one year (365 consecutive calendar days) without a lost-time incident or fatality, were presented to EJ (East Jordan, Michigan); J R Hoe & Sons (Middlesboro, Kentucky); and Wisconsin Precision Casting (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin).

Jeet Radia, McWane (Birmingham, Alabama), earned the Keating Founders Freedom Award, which recognizes significant work on behalf of the industry in government affairs, human resource management, safety and health, or education. AFS has conferred the award since 1975. It is named in honor of James P. Keating of Neenah Foundry Company.

Ernesto Paulino was presented the Gary Mosher New Member Award, which recognizes people who actively participate in committee activities and who make a meaningful contribution during their first two years of membership. 

EHS Division Service Citations were also given to Dan Plant, Metal Technologies Inc. (Auburn, Indiana); Pete Buczek, WGS Global Services LLC (Flint, Michigan); and Kristen Belcredi, Keramida Inc. (Indianapolis).

Green Foundry and Safety Award Case Studies

Green Foundry Awards were given to Benton Foundry for “Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement” and Waupaca Foundry Plants #5 and #2/3 for “Sustainability.” Pier Foundry & Pattern Shop earned the Safety and Insight Award.

Benton Foundry’s award-winning project was the installation of dust collector variable frequency drives, which resulted in continual engagement and improvement. The dust collection systems at Benton Foundry have gone through a systemic, multi-step modification and upgrade program.  These upgrades include super-efficient motors and variable frequency drives (VFD’s) on 300,000 cfm of collection.  The VFD controls the blower by adjusting motor power to maintain a constant airflow setpoint. In the summer months, the warm air is directed outside. During the winter months, the system recirculates the tempered, clean air back into the facility through prefilters and HEPA filters. This air is used for heating purposes, as well as reducing the negative pressure in the facility. This recirculated tempered air provides a clean working environment and also results in a six-figure heating cost reduction that, in effect, pays for the system. The decrease in power plant emissions from this project alone is estimated at 700 tons annually. The amount of energy conserved has been estimated to be roughly 1.5 million kWh annually. A rebate from Pennsylvania’s Act 129 program for $122,000 helped fund the project. Annual savings are around $100,000. Additionally, the bags in the collectors were changed from fabric to Teflon, which cost around $2.00 more per bag.  However, the consequence of the change was that the particulate more readily slid off the bag, which reduced the pulse frequency and pulse time, resulting in approximately a 75% reduction in compressed air. Benton Foundry was also visited by Patrick McDonnel, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, and others to celebrate the project. While touring the facility, the DEP secretary made note that there are roughly 1,800 dust collectors of this size or larger in the state of Pennsylvania. If all those collectors had these types of improvements, the energy savings would be an impressive number. This was a voluntary and cooperative effort between Benton Foundry and PA DEP.

Waupaca Foundry Plants #5 & #2/3, earned the Green Foundry Award for a project titled, “Cupola Blast Air Dehumidification and Smart Roof Exhaust Fans.” High humidity in cupola blast air has detrimental effects on cupola efficiency, with well‐known issues including: increased coke rate per unit of iron melted, reduced melt rate, reduced combustion temperatures, reduced carbon pickup and elevated thermal oil heat loads increasing exhaust volume to the emission system. Waupaca Foundry installed a blast‐air dehumidification system to compensate for high humidity conditions at its cupola plant in Tell City, Indiana. A desiccant wheel was installed in the blast air stream to remove water vapor from ambient air prior to blast pre‐heating in the recuperator. Theoretical values of coke reduction and cupola efficiency increase have been verified since equipment installation, and annual savings of 2.5% of total annual coke use, or approximately 656 tons of coke, has been achieved. The technology has also been installed at Plant 2/3.

Also at Waupaca, within the facility’s sand mulling and molding departments, six legacy roof‐mounted exhaust fans assisted with removal of heat and workplace air turnover in the summer months. These 10 hp exhaust fans ran continuously which, depending on the season, would result in the work area being too cold and/or the utilization of nearby make‐up air fans to replace the air volume and heat. The existing fans were automated with temperature and carbon monoxide sensors to provide inputs to control the utilization of the fans. With the sensor connected automation, the fans became a “smart” system which targeted fan “On” time only when needed, defined as when workplace temperatures were elevated and/or carbon monoxide levels requiring dissipation were experienced. These modifications resulted in significant energy savings with no loss in fan performance. Significant energy savings was realized by this modification to existing equipment. Compared to the prior operation mode, the added controls resulted in a reduction of approximately 275,000 kwh (electric) and 28,000 dkt (natural gas) use annually.

The Safety and Insight Award given to Pier Foundry & Pattern Shop, Inc. was for its molding, pouring, and cooling equipment upgrades. Prior to the investment, the old machines and pouring/cooling lines accounted for 16% of all facility injuries due to the manual labor needed to operate. The goal of the project was to increase facility output while staying focused on reducing injuries, improving ergonomics, and improving air quality in the area. The project took roughly five weeks to complete and resulted in substantially safer conditions while also increasing production output. The implementation of these systems greatly reduced the need for manual labor, reduced employee injuries in the area (100% injury reduction at the time of award application), and improved air quality. The new molding machine has taken away the need for employees to manually pack flasks and move them with an air hoist onto the pouring line. Molding carts, weighing as much as 800 lbs., are no longer pushed up the line by employees—the new line automatically moves mold cars. Weights and jackets are no longer moved manually; instead, they are transferred from the cooling line to the pouring line via an automated weight and jacket shifter. The pouring deck is free from spilled sand and metal, and spilled sand under the lines has been greatly reduced by the new system, leading to less manual cleaning. The fully covered cooling belt reduces silica emissions in this area as the molds are fully collected during the cooling time.