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Breathing Safety at the English National Opera

The Barber of Seville? The Marriage of Figaro?

Or perhaps the better known A Midsummer Night’s Dream is more your style of Opera. When Fercell Engineering were asked to assist the English National Opera with some fume extraction, we didn’t know much about opera but we were excited to find out.

The Challenge

The problem that the English National Opera came to us with was within their costumes department. A huge element of opera is of course the elaborate and extravagant costumes, of which many are made on the premises at the London Coliseum. They required a new fume extraction system that would extract solvent fume from the gluing process associated with creating intricate masks and clothing.

If solvent is inhaled it can cause all sorts of problem’s to staff’s health. There are some immediate, short-term effects like eye irritation, headaches and nausea. Then there are the more chronic issues including dermatitis and more serious liver, kidney or neurological diseases. High concentrations of solvents can cause unconsciousness and death, so fume extraction is a very necessary and important mechanism. For more details on avoiding solvent risks, visit the HSE site.

On top of the potential health issue for staff, the costume department’s current N16 centrifugal fan had stopped working and was unfortunately deemed not suitable for a service.

Fercell Engineering’s Solution

Our proposed solution was to completely remove the centrifugal fan and replace it with an MSQ centrifugal fan set. This is the perfect fan for efficient fume extraction. It also allows flexible arms to be attached so that the opera workers can tilt the hood and know that they will always have safe fume extraction at their finger tips.

The current ducting system consisted of an inefficient three-way development and unnecessarily long lengths of hose. Fercell Engineering’s engineer installed a new correctly-sized and balanced ducting system, linked up to the connection of an articulated arm and fume cabinet. The fumes are now collected by a flexible arm so the costume designers have more space to work and can be free to move around, with less space taken up by pieces of equipment. The fumes are collected and externally disposed of, so they are all kept safe.

English National Opera and Fercell Engineering look forward to working together in the future.

Technical data:
Name: MSQ 200 – 30 Fan, 75.0kW
Classification: ST0
Volume: 1,400 m³h
Pressure: 800 Pa
Voltage: 200
Speed: 2,800 rpm

English National Opera website Plant and Works Engineering article Health and Safety Matters article Industrial Plant and Equipment article