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"Ventilation requirements for plating shop"

May 5, 2010

Q. Hello,

I am designing a processing room to support our manufacturing, approx. 2000 sq. ft. The processing will consist of two lines, one for steel and one for aluminum. Alkaline Zinc plate for steel and chem film and anodize for aluminum, both lines tank size will be 600 gal ea. (zinc plate will be 1200 gal.) This area of the facility will be classified as an H-4 occupancy in accordance with California Building Code section 307.6. ventilation is required in accordance with California Fire Code 2705.1.19, 2704.3.1. the requirement is for 24/7 ventilation and back-up power. We planned on providing source ventilation for the heated tanks, but not 24/7 with back-up power. This ventilation requirement seems excessive for our use. I've not seen this in any local plating shops. I need to give the fire marshal good cause to modify the ventilation requirements, any suggestions?

David Darrow
special projects - San Diego, California, USA

May , 2010

A. Hi, David. Plating "fumes" are not fumes, they are mists -- and I know of no case where they are flammable. But I do know of multi-million dollar fires spread by unattended ventilation systems. The ventilated tanks should be covered when not in use, and the ventilation system turned off or preferably powered way down.

Since the system being off poses no danger of fire, I think the fire marshall will agree.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 7, 2010

Q. Hi Ted, Yes he knows the "mists / vapors" are not flammable. His concern is the for safety of occupants and first responders involved in an emergency situation. Our HMIS we submitted shows that we will exceed the exempt amounts of corrosive liquids in open use, this requires the H4 occupancy. The fire marshal is concerned that if our tanks were left uncovered a cloud of corrosive or toxic vapor may develop that continuous ventilation would prevent. To drop the 24/7 ventilation and back-up power requirement we would need a fail-safe engineered system were the covers would close automatically upon loss of power, and battery backup to provide some ventilation after loss of power. Although I'm happy he is willing to work with us, it seem excessive and unnecessary. Are the mists from these solutions is requiring a re-think. My problem is how do I show the that continuous ventilation and back-up power isn't necessary?

David Darrow [returning]
- San Diego, California, USA

May 7, 2010

A. Hi, David. Of course it's expensive and unnecessary and you haven't seen it in any local plating shops. I personally never saw it in a career of 45 years in plating equipment and plating shop design spanning the world, so it's not very common if it exists at all "in the wild". Maybe another reader can point to examples though. Simple covers can be put in place by hand; the failsafe aspect is silly -- the automated controller is certainly not failsafe.

Until the world economy crashes from unrealistic resources being devoted to the elimination of all risk, we continue on a path where winning the argument is tough because there actually is "some" minuscule amount of danger of a worker or first-responder being temporarily exposed to an acid fume that exceeds some artificial limit. Keep your vinegar bottle capped! Hopefully someone with hands-on experience in fail-safe ventilation systems will chime in. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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