Safe Choice Education
Maintain safety and product integrity
Interact with Nilfisk's Safe Choice guide to learn more about choosing the right industrial vacuum for pharmaceutical
processing and manufacturing facilities. Simply click on each block for more details and information.
Learn more about our Safe Choice Commitment.
Certified Explosion-Proof Vacuum vs. Standard Industrial Vacuum Cleaner
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) defines combustible dust as any finely divided solid material that is 420 microns or smaller in diameter and presents a fire or explosion hazard when dispersed and ignited in air. In its Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP), OSHA defines combustible dust as a “particulate solid that presents a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or some other oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations, regardless of particle size or shape.”
While active pharmaceutical ingredients and excipient ingredients can cause combustible dust, production lines of oral solid dosage, including tablets, are most at risk Most pharmaceutical ingredients are powders and consequently prone to becoming dangerous airborne dust.
The National Electric Code (NEC) provides guidance on special requirements for electrical equipment, depending on the hazard. It classifies locations by type, condition and nature. Private laboratories or OSHA can test and rate material for combustibility and classification. The authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) will make the final decision as to whether the dust is combustible and whether it requires an “explosion-proof/dust ignition-proof” vacuum. Not all facilities handling combustible dust need an explosion-proof vacuum.
For more detailed information, visit www.explosionproof-vacuum.com.
Wet/Dry Collection vs. Dry Collection
It is a good idea to keep at least one wet/dry vacuum at your facility. Even if you may only need to collect small amounts of liquids from time to time, you need to use a wet/dry vacuum for the job. A wet/dry vacuum has a grounded bypass motor to avoid electrical hazards.
Dry-only vacuums are not equipped with features that enable the collection of liquids. Attempting to collect liquid with a dry-only vacuum can ruin the machine and cause serious injury. For best results and a longer, more efficient vacuum life, choose a wet/dry vacuum with a stainless steel or polyethylene tank to prevent corrosion and an automatic shut-off valve to prevent overfilling.
Dust Collector vs. Industrial Vacuum
The two terms are often used interchangeably, but dust collectors and vacuums are very different machines. A dust collector has high airflow (cfm) but low waterlift, or suction. It can effectively collect airborne dust but cannot pick up dust from the floor.
An industrial vacuum cleaner has a better balance of airflow and waterlift to provide the performance required to collect debris, dust, etc. from floors, machinery, overhead beams and walls.
Focus on high-performance industrial vacuums that are designed for use in a pharmaceutical environment. If the vacuum is to be used in a cleanroom environment, it must meet demanding standards set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO 14644-1 sets guidelines for air cleanliness determined by the permissible particle size and levels of concentration allowed. Compliance with this standard requires a designated cleanroom vacuum with a HEPA and/or ULPA filter.
Cleanroom vs. Standard Industrial Vacuum
There are certain vacuum cleaners that are not appropriate for use in pharmaceutical or nutraceutical environments – like shop-style vacuums, for instance. These vacuums simply aren’t built to handle the rigorous cleaning demands of the pharmaceutical industry. They don’t have high-quality filtration, and they are made of materials that are difficult to sanitize.
Instead, focus on high-performance industrial vacuums that are designed for use in a pharmaceutical environment. If the vacuum is to be used in a cleanroom environment, it must meet demanding standards set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO 14644-1 sets guidelines for air cleanliness determined by the permissible particle size and levels of concentration allowed. Compliance with this standard requires a designated cleanroom vacuum with a HEPA and/or ULPA filter.
Consider selecting different vacuums for different purposes – or cleaning tasks – within a facility. Don’t stretch one model too thin; it might be best for thorough cleaning around production lines but not built for handling liquids. Work to identify all of your cleaning needs and then select appropriate vacuums for different cleaning scenarios.
Single-Phase vs. Three-Phase
The duration of usage will help you begin to choose between a single-phase or three-phase vacuum. Tableting suites or cleanrooms on a scheduled cleaning regimen will benefit from using a single-phase vacuum cleaner. Single-phase machines are well suited for general cleaning of the suite and around the production equipment. You can also connect a single-phase vacuum directly to production equipment (such as tablet processing lines) if that equipment will not be run continuously. Connecting your vacuum directly to production line equipment minimizes the spread of fine dust and keeps all waste materials away from workers.
For continuous use or 24/7 operations, use a three-phase vacuum as it’s the most economical configuration. Compared to a single-phase motor, a three-phase unit will operate with a higher efficiency over longer durations. In essence, a three-phase vacuum is a prime example of right-sizing: doing more with less.
Paper Bags & Polyliners vs. Sealed Systems
Standard paper bags capture large amounts of non-hazardous material. They feature a two-ply construction with an inner lining that captures fine particles while air passes through the outer cellulose layer. Paper bags capture the bulk of large particles for easy collection and disposal.
Polyliners are a great way to dispose of nuisance material – and even hazardous material – while preventing a dust plume. By lifting out the entire liner, you can remove large amounts of dust and debris quickly and easily. Conductive polyliners help keep the vacuum grounded and are available for the safe collection of combustible dust.
The best option for secure hazardous material removal is the Safe-Pak™ safe-change system. This method is perfect for managing potent compounds in the pharmaceutical industry. When incorporated with certain industrial vacuums, the Safe-Pak system collects particles and retains them in a sealed, disposable HEPA-filtered container. This protects the machine and the production environment from contamination and provides a safe and easy means of disposing of the collected waste. The HEPA filter inside the Safe-Pak system meets IEST Standards and Recommended Practices.