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Terra on firm ground with VOC, safety compliance (Terra Furniture Inc.; volatile organic compounds)(includes directory)


Numerous citations for safety excellence decorate the wall in the reception area. But while no framed certificates attest to Terra Furniture's excellent record in air quality compliance, it is of equal, if not greater, importance. For in achieving compliance, the City of Industry-based firm obeys the nation's strictest finishing regulation, South Coast Air Quality Management District Rule 1136.

The first phase of Rule 1136 went into effect January 1989. In the two years since Terra Furniture switched from spraying solvent-based coatings to a combination of water-based, high solids and 1,1,1 trichlorethane materials, the company has had to overcome a few obstacles, said Gary Stafford, vice president and CFO. Most notably, the company has learned that not every finish can be used on every product.

"There are no generic material formulations for compliance. Everyone has to find his own (material) niche," Stafford said. For example, "We can use a polyurethane 1,1,1 trichlorethane on the indoor furniture. But we use water-based sealers and top-coats on outdoor wood since they primarily keep a natural looking finish. We're finding that we can't really combine a water-based sealer or topcoat with other types of materials."

A semi-custom shop, Terra manufactures wood and metal residential, hospitality and commercial furnishings for hotels, restaurants, ski lodges, dormitories, shopping malls, offices, etc. Its client base includes: Hyatt, Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott and Holiday Inn hotels; Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm; Rockefeller Resorts, Holua Condominiums in Kona, Hawaii; Tony Roma's Restaurants; and the U.S. State Department, General Services Administration.

Meeting equipment requirements

Compliance with South Coast Air Quality Management District Rule 1136 is a fact of life for Southern California wood finishing companies. In addition to using compliant materials supplied by Lilly and Cardinal Industrial Finishes, Terra invested in DeVilbiss HVLP sprayers for its wood products. Also covered under Rule 1136, Terra finishes its metal furniture electrostatically, using a powder coating. The company maintains two enclosed booths for dust-free air drying.

Stafford said he has not encountered gun tip problems faced by some who use HVLP sprayers for water-based materials. "We're finding newer sprayers are improved. The problem we were having was in retraining our workers.

"Part of the problem," said Stafford, "was when we'd switch from spraying water-based materials to something else, you have to use a very different technique. Some employees were spraying the water-based (higher solids) material too thick, and then they'd spray the 1,1,1 trichlorethane too thin.

"This industry was so used to using very forgiving materials that people were trained to be applicators and sprayers, not fine finishers. Now that's switched - and they have to be fine finishers." Although water-based materials cost almost twice as much as traditional finishes, Stafford said, the higher solids ratio allows for thinner coats, and material usage is cut in half.

Safety - another requirement

Terra Furniture's 29 production workers wear face masks and/or respirators around all finishing and sanding operations; they are optional in the cutting areas. Hard hats are worn when working with the Taylor case clamp. And back belts are mandatory for heavy lifting operations.

"Safety is a subject very serious to the woodworking industry," Stafford said of California's strict safety requirements. According to Stafford, the standard rate in California for workmen's compensation for woodworking is roughly 18 percent of the company's payroll. "That's turning into more of a problem here than air quality emissions."

Safety is under regulation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which also regulates workplace wood dust limits. Permissible exposure limits set in early 1989 is for 5 milligrams per cubic meter for all hardwoods and softwoods, except western red cedar. Considered an allergenic species, its limit is 2.5 mg/[m.sup.3].

Companies have until Dec. 31, 1992 to achieve wood dust compliance using engineering controls. Until then, compliance can be met using a combination of engineering, work practice and respirator control methods. At Terra, for example, in addition to face masks, a custom-made collector filters dust from the sanding and cutting operations.

PHOTO : Workers are required to wear respirators when working in the spray booths. Terra has equipped its booths with HVLP sprayers, making it compliant with Rule 1136.

PHOTO : Safety is of key importance. Hard hats are required when working with overhead type machines, such as the Taylor clamp, while face masks protect workers from dust inhalation.

PHOTO : Terra uses high solids and a 1,1,1 trichlorethane material on its indoor furniture, such as the Imperial Collection, designed by Charles Gibilterra.

PHOTO : Designed by David Kline, the Craftsman Collection is highlighted by its four-piece poster bed canopy bed.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Vance Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Koenig, Karen Malamud
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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