Keep Yourself Safe and Your Customers Happy: Combating Dust and Fumes

Health and Safety Negative Air Systems
Photo courtesy of Negative Air Systems

With a background deeply rooted in the flooring industry, I know that dust and fumes are some of the biggest challenges a flooring professional faces while on a job. Not only is it important to control dust and fumes at the jobsite, but the health hazards involved in inhaling these foreign particulates are equally, if not more important, to acknowledge.

Several years ago, while having dinner with some friends, they mentioned how terrible the dust and smell were from the recent renovation of their home. I knew exactly what they were talking about; their contractor had simply hung plastic to prevent the dust and fumes from moving freely throughout the house, but he was not equipped to extract the dust and fumes from the home completely.

My friends saw this as just one of many annoyances related to having work done on their home. However, I knew that it potentially was more dangerous, especially for the professionals they were employing – who deal with the dust and fumes as part of their jobs every day.

Today, the most-common solutions used to combat dust and fumes involve containment,
filtration, and extraction – either individually or in some combination.

Dust containment systems are probably the most-common method of minimizing particulates when dealing with home remodeling projects. High-powered vacuum systems or even shop-vacs can be employed as a first line of defense against the spread of dust during a project. It is much easier to prevent dust from spreading than it is to clean it up once it has settled. Vacuums are only part of the solution. Physical barriers can be employed to prevent dust from spreading to other parts of the jobsite or adjacent areas, such as plastic sheeting, temporary dust barrier walls, and other temporary enclosures.

Dust filtration is another way to control the byproducts of the work. One of the most-common options are air scrubbers with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, designed to capture small particles like dust, pollen, and mold spores. These filters are highly effective in removing airborne particles. However, like containment solutions, they generally only are minimally effective against fumes.

Finally, many professional flooring experts also use negative air systems. These products are designed to create negative air pressure in the work area, extracting dust and fumes from the space. This is accomplished by exhausting contaminated air out of the work area. Most, if not all, have the ability to be filtered for particulates as well as fumes from moving into other parts of the building.

Having used each of these methods, I’ve found each has their advantages and drawbacks. In the same way that no two jobs are the same, it’s most often true that a single solution isn’t necessarily the most effective. I’ve found a combination of containment, filtration, and extraction (or even two of the three) to be most effective.

The bottom line is our line of work can be messy, but it doesn’t have to be dirty or pose a threat to you or your clients’ health. It’s best to fully understand your options when it comes to mitigating dust and fumes in your work space. Choosing the right ones can make all the difference in your health and happiness as a professional and – just as important – in your customers’ satisfaction when the job is done.

Bud Ferguson is the CEO of Negative Air Systems and inventor of The Zephyr. For more information, visit or email


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