The clouds of dust and microscopic particles contractors once generated sawing, sweeping, cutting, and operating other power tools are fast disappearing. Growing awareness about their dangers, new EPA regulations, and evolution of accessories and tools that control dust are main reasons why. Among these products are vacuums, shrouds, respirators, and dedicated control systems that have become as prominent in the workplace as the tools that generate the dust and the operators and bystanders they protect.
“Not so long ago, collecting dust on the jobsite was never on anyone’s mind,” relates North American Sales Director for CDC LaRue Industries Stewart Meeh. “Dust was just part of the job when grinding, sanding, sawing, or cutting. Then, studies conducted by both private and government entities indicated that dust wasn’t only bad for one’s health, depending on the dust, it could be very harmful.”
The new information, he points out, resulted in 2010 EPA regulations governing the removal of lead paint, and soon to come new rules on crystalline silica found in the dust from concrete and drywall joint compound.
“Simply put,” he emphasizes, “dust needs to be collected by a shrouded tool and connected to a suitable dust collector so the user isn’t working in a cloud of dust and potentially exposed to a hazardous material.”
The new EPA regulation mandates the use of a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum when renovating residential buildings constructed prior to 1978. The rule, which is designed to protect the operator from lead paint in the dust, will reportedly expand to commercial structures 2013. “The EPA establishes the standards, and quality manufacturers should have their products third-party certified to meet them,” relates Darren Diess, Vice President of Dustless Technologies. “This legislation has teeth, which can result in fines in excess of $32,000 a day for every day the right equipment is not being used on the jobsite, or if the contractor is not EPA RRP Lead Safe certified.”
“Workers in construction environments where crystalline silica dust is airborne are at high risk of developing silicosis, a serious lung disease caused by the accumulation of this dust in the lungs,” adds Brian Delahaut, Vice President of MK Diamond Products. “When these small dust particles are inhaled, they can embed themselves deeply in the lungs. The lungs cannot clear out the crystalline silica dust by mucous or coughing. The dust causes the formation of scar tissue, thus reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. There is no cure for silicosis. Silicosis is the most common occupational lung disease worldwide.”
“It’s not only the operator who becomes imperiled,” adds Star Diamond Tools president John Bernat, CSO. “Fine silica dust doesn’t settle out; it stays in the air exposing other contractors and workers on the job site to its dangers.” He notes that government bodies in both Canada and the U.S. now realize the dangers and are legislating against them. In the meantime, though, rental stores are among those retailers on the front line that can educate customers and supply them with protective equipment. (see sidebar)
Protecting one’s health and avoiding debilitating fines are two key reasons to offer customers dust protection equipment and accessories. There are other less-important yet still good reasons to offer this protective equipment. “Limiting dust helps extend tool life and performance,” notes Frank Hieronymus, Sr Product Manager for Hilti’s Diamond Product line. “In addition, jobsite clean-up is a direct labor cost that can be saved by collecting the dust at its source, and a clean jobsite helps improve productivity and ultimately reduces the time/cost of the job.”