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Dust is a major topic in the industry these days, as it should be. We want to ensure that ourselves and our workers are healthy for many years to come. Concrete dust causes a lot of health problems down the road and you would be amazed with how much exposure you have to dust throughout a day on the job site. Not to mention the pounds of dust that will fill a dust vacuum collection system that you would be exposed to.
However, concrete dust vacuum collection systems are not just for your crew’s and your health. It is also about employee retention. Improving the conditions on a job site will help keep employees on your crew, especially when other companies are not implementing the same tools in their business. That is why now is the time to invest in one of these systems in your business.
This post considers why you should purchase a concrete dust vacuum collection system in your business, the health benefits, the benefits for your business and employees, and some of the options that are available to you. If you want to learn more about dust collection systems and being OSHA compliant, you can listen to our podcast episode with Jeremy of Dust killer Tools.
Dust Health and Safety
Concrete dust is comprised of silica, one of the most common elements in the earth which can be found in dirt, sand, and, of course, concrete. Silica itself is not a problem, unless it becomes airborne in small particulates that can be inhaled. This happens through crushing, grinding, and drilling concrete. These actions cause silica dust, or respirable crystalline silica, to become airborne. These particulates are carcinogenic and when they are inhaled, they cause scar tissue in the lungs that can never be reversed. This is called silicosis and can cause a shortness in breath, coughing, chest pain, and much more.
This is why it is so important to implement some sort of dust control system in your business to ensure the health and safety of those on the job site. At the very least you should have N95 respirator dust masks available to everyone on the job site. However, in the United States under OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) laws you are required to implement a system of dust control that includes either water or vacuum. Failure to do so will result in crippling fines for your business.
OSHA Dust Compliant
In order to be OSHA dust compliant, your business needs to take several steps in ensuring the collection or mitigation of dust risk on a job site. Though there is a lot to know about what you need to do as a business, Dust Killer Tools has an excellent step-by-step process that you should look at in terms of being OSHA compliant. Even if you are not bound to OSHA’s laws like those in Canada, there is dust control coming into place if it already has not been in place and you should look into what should be done on your end as a business owner.
You have two options when you are cutting to be compliant with OSHA’s dust control, either cutting with water or a vacuum. If you are using a vacuum system, there should be proof that the vacuum system works using exposure testing. Those that sell their vacuum systems have generally proven this through exposure testing. Respirators like the use of an N95 dust mask are generally still required to be used regardless of dust control choice. A written control plan is also required for your business. A competent person should be designated and responsible for the safety of the crew, whether that is yourself or the foreman (whoever is on site overseeing the crew the majority of the time). Medical surveillance of your employees is also a required step.
Once again, make sure that you are doing your own research on this topic for your business and be sure to check out our podcast episode on this subject above.
Alternatives to Concrete Dust Collection
The truth of the matter is that the alternatives to a concrete dust collection system are not great. The two choices are dry cutting and wet cutting. Both have the negatives compared to cutting with a dust collection system in place.
Simply cutting dry allows all of the silica dust from the concrete to float around you while you are cutting. You will be engulfed in a cloud of smoke that will linger if there is no breeze and remain for a while on the job site. It will stick to your sweaty skin and remain on your clothing causing more problems as you enter and exit your truck or wherever you may track it. Not to mention the major health hazard involved in being exposed to that dust. It also creates a mess and is inconsiderate of your customer’s neighbors and could lead to calls to report your business.
If you are cutting dry, you should absolutely have an N95 respirator or dust mask on your face to protect yourself from the silica dust. Depending on your exposure levels, this is just not enough and is most definitely not enough to satisfy OSHA.
Cutting wet is another unwelcome alternative to a concrete dust collection system. When you cut wet, the dust becomes a muddy slurry that gets EVERYWHERE. You will get soaked from the water running off of the blade or you can wear rain gear in the hot summer sun to protect yourself from that mess, your choice. The slurry will harden to your clothes and once again be tracked into your truck and eventually be airborne. Slurry that hardens on the surface of your stone will harden and stain your stones. They will need to be scrubbed with a slurry remover in order to get the stain off of their surface. It goes without saying that cutting wet is not a great alternative to cutting dry, but can be essential to be OSHA compliant if you are not using a concrete dust collection system. You will have to wear an N95 respirator or dust mask to protect yourself from any additional airborne particulate while cutting wet.
Why Invest in a Concrete Dust Vacuum System
There is no doubt that there are many benefits to a concrete dust collection system. Avoiding those dry cuts and wet cuts are no doubt a positive, as are the health and safety benefits. There are a couple of other less obvious reasons why you and everyone else in this industry should be looking into investing into one of these systems for themselves, their business, and their employees.
Health and Safety of You and Your Crew
Silicosis is a scary thing. It will take years of exposure to realize what you have done to your lungs and once you realize what you have done, it will be too late. Negative effects to your lungs is never an enjoyable way to endure the rest of your life. I know it is obvious, but breathing is something that you need to do almost every second and most of the time you do it subconsciously. But imagine if every time you had to breathe it was a labor to do so. That would not be a great way to see your health decline and it should be something that you work to avoid for yourself and those on your crew.
Creating workable conditions for your crew will improve morale. Your crew will have no problem working in a dustless environment when the saw gets taken out and suddenly cut day does not seem too bad. This improvement of morale will lead to better working conditions and a more efficient day. It is a win-win for everyone involved.
This improvement of morale also means that employees will be more willing to stay around, especially when the alternative means moving to a company that does not have a dust control system in place. In an industry that is so short on labor, improving employee retention through the investment of tools is definitely something that every business owner should be exploring.
Continuing on with the labor shortage topic, if we as an industry together are able to make this job look more attractive, more people would be willing to take a shot in joining this industry. Being engulfed in dust day in and day out is not an ideal work environment for potential employees. But a dustless environment is something that can be promoted to get recruits into this amazing industry.
Dust Free Concrete Cutting
The idea of working on a job site with involves dustless concrete cutting is a dream for some and a reality for a few. We discussed a lot of positives that come from owning one of these systems and implementing it into your business. However, it is not all positives to go along with these systems. There are two negatives that are common through every manufacturer. Price and weight. These systems are very costly and they are added weight to an already expensive process.
Though there are other options on the market for grinders and smaller cutting equipment dust control, we are going to specifically narrow our results to larger saws for concrete cutting dust collection such as 14″ blades and up table saws and cut-off saws. These systems can all be set up with smaller cutting equipment with attachments that these manufacturers also offer.
Dust Killer Tools offer some great solutions for dust collection systems. Jeremy has been in the industry for quite some time as a business owner and eventually decided that he wanted to tackle the war on dust with his own line of products. They have hook-ups for a wide range of cutting tools in the hardscape industry including cutting in place shrouds and a table saw hook-up in order to cover all of your bases when cutting. It is incredible to watch their job site being dust-free while cutting in place and on the table saw. It makes for a better overall environment for employees and Jeremy even states that his workers would never go back to working for anyone without dust control practices in place.
Dust Killer Tools offers a powerful product with a lot of value. There is a relatively costly upfront investment into the system, but is nothing compared to OSHA fines if you do not have a system in place to control dust. It is a large piece of equipment that vacuums the dust, so you will need a way to transport this system safely as it weighs in on the low end at 400 pounds.
Dustless Tools was the first company that I came across a few years back that introduced the Dust Bull to the industry. This is an attachment for cut-off saws that is clipped onto the bottom of the saw and attaches to a HEPA vacuum that catches the dust coming off of the blade while you cut in place. Considering the most of our cuts that we do on a job site are using a cut-off saw, this attachment is extremely helpful when trying to control the dust on our job site. This is an awesome option for a portable system that is easy to use with your cut-off saw in any application. They also have a shroud attachment for a grinding dust collection system that is available providing a dustless concrete grinder option. With one vacuum, you will have minimal dust and would definitely require an N95 mask in addition to the vacuum itself. With two vacuums, there is almost no visible dust while cutting. Also in their lineup is a concrete slurry vacuum which can be helpful with cleanup if you are cutting wet.
IQ Power Tools is the first that comes to mind in terms of a dustless concrete saw with vacuum attachment already built into the machine itself. It is a pretty incredible set up that is available in many applications including tile saws, table saws, and even a cut-off saw. Though it is still relatively new technology, there has been a few problems reported with their table saws which makes us hesitant to invest in one of these systems just yet. That being said, those that have reported problems have also said that the company has been extremely helpful in their customer support.
Husqvarna has recently entered the space of table saws and cut-off saw dust collection with a fairly portable system with their K770 cut-off saw. Similar to that of IQ Power Tools, they offer an awesome alternative to the system that should be looked at as a solution to your dust control on a job site. If you do not already own a saw or are looking at purchasing a new saw to your fleet, this is the one that we would be looking into for our business. However, if you already own a saw and are just looking to control the dust with an attachment, we would lean towards the Dustless Tools attachments.
Construction Dust Control
There is no doubt that controlling the dust on a job site is a major concern for the industry moving forward. The laws are here, and if they are not enforced where you are just yet, they will be in the near future. Now is the time to invest and implement a dust control system on your job site before you have to scramble to make a purchase or to create a system in a hurry and have it embraced by your employees on a job site.
There are already several options for you available on the market and there are sure more to enter the market. As the competition in this space increases, so will the technology improve which is exciting. There are already some incredible options available, but we are excited to see some more inexpensive and portable items enter the marketplace.