Regardless of whether your shooting range employs a closed-loop or a direct exhaust ventilation filter, federal regulations require the use of a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. The use of these filters is the single best way to capture airborne lead dust particles and prevent the particles from harming range users or employees.
High-quality lead-dust filters work by pulling in the air of your firing range and collecting the heavier lead dust. This step keeps it from circulating in your air. The benefits of this filtration method are huge for a firing range. Mostly, it can ensure that the risk of lead poisoning is minimized. This step can help make it a safer and better place to visit.
Installing One in A Firing Range
There are several steps you need to take when installing this kind of filter in a firing range. First, assess the cubic feet of your firing range. Do this by measuring the length, width, and height of the room. Multiple these together to get your cubic footage. Now, seek out a filter that is strong enough to meet this demand. The filtering capacity should be printed on the filter box.
Now, it is important to install it near where you fire the guns. This step is crucial because it will capture a majority of the lead dust that originates when you fire the gun. It is also a good idea to install an air-input line from the outside. This helps to draw in fresh air and keeps your filter running smoothly.
However, incorrectly changing these filters can actually increase employee lead exposure levels. Proper care is of the utmost importance when changing HEPA filters in any firing range.
Tips to Reduce Lead Dust Contamination in Your Indoor Firing Range
By now, the hazards of lead exposure are well documented. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) all have strict guidelines for how lead should be handled and disposed of, due to the potentially harmful health effects caused by being exposed to too much lead. Crackdowns in recent years have led to a few firing ranges closing their doors; however, with responsible maintenance, indoor firing ranges can mitigate the lead dust that contaminates the range, reducing exposure hazards for employees and shooters alike.
To reduce lead dust exposure, you should pay close attention to the following tips:
- The ventilation system(s) should be running anytime the range is in use or being cleaned. This allows the HEPA filters installed to work, clearing the air of toxic lead particles.
- If any part of the ventilation system stops working, all firing at the range should cease and patrons and employees should exit the building. The range should only open back up once the problem has been fixed. Ventilation systems work to push lead dust away from the shooting area and into the HEPA filters that remove harmful particles; if this system is not functioning at peak efficiency, people may be at risk.
- Never use carpeting inside your indoor firing range. Carpets create a haven for lead dust to settle in and raises the risks of exposure.
- Similarly, never allow anyone to eat or drink inside the firing range. Lead dust can settle on bottles, food, and even clothes. Putting anything into your mouth can transport harmful lead particles inside the body.
- Only use automatic target retrieval systems. While it can be tempting at times to allow shooters to retrieve their targets by hand, crossing the firing line unnecessarily exposes shooters to the lead dust particles in the air.
- Enact cleaning policies that protect employees. For example, never dry sweep a range, and when possible, use only HEPA vacuum cleaners. These devices capture the lead dust without stirring it up, protecting the person cleaning the range.
Safety Measures for Changing HEPA Filters
Ultimately, you should ensure you follow manufacturer recommendations when changing your HEPA air filters, or the upstream filters used in a closed-loop system. Some additional things to keep in mind are:
- avoid sudden movements that can dislodge lead particles, releasing them back into the air
- immediately placed used filters in approved and sealed containers
- always use fresh HEPA filters and other filters, installed per the manufacturer’s instructions
- dispose of the filter per your local lead regulation guidelines — do not just put it in the normal trash can, as it may qualify as hazardous waste per the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
NOTE: MT2 treats your filters on-site so that they can be removed and safely disposed of as non-haz. This saves you from having a potentially unqualified contractor transport filters off of your range which increases your cost and liability exposure.
- use a HEPA vacuum to clean around the access doors of all filters
- before installing the new filter, use the HEPA vacuum to clean out the filter housing
- do not clean air ducts in the ventilation system unless you are a professional
- change regular pre-filters more frequently than HEPA filters
- use personal protective equipment, such as gloves
- practice good hygiene after removing lead filters, such as hand washing, changing clothes, and avoiding food and drink during the removal process
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), filters containing lead should always be changed out by personnel who are properly trained in both filter removal and lead safety. Recognize that changing filters greatly increases a worker’s exposure to toxic lead particles and take the appropriate safety measures.
Are You Improperly Managing Your Firing Range Filters and Other Waste?
Improperly managed range waste such as filters, debris, soil or other backstop material like rubber, along with incorrectly collected, containerized and stored lead bullets or shot can trigger US EPA RCRA hazardous waste requirements and obligations for a range. Range owners or managers interested in the new MT2 Firing Range Services Filter Treatment Technology service are encouraged to contact us today to save 50% (typically $10,000/yr.) by Never Generating Hazardous Waste, Guaranteed!
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