Many tools electricians use, such as rotary hammers, demo hammers, drills, saws, grinders and more, create dust, which is distracting and can be unhealthy. Occupational Safety and Health Administration now mandates control of silica that can be generated by chipping and drilling in concrete, tile, rock, stone, brick and other materials. Silica dust is known to cause cancer and other serious illnesses.
Manufacturers have developed dust-control system to keep silica dust under levels defined by OSHA 29 CFR § 1926.1153 Final Rule on Crystalline Silica, which applies to every job site in the United States.
This report emphasizes dry methods of controlling dust with systems attached to power tools.
Exposure to silica dust can be a major cause of lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America’s trades workers, observes Milwaukee product manager David Mobarak.
OSHA’s construction standard on respirable crystalline silica addresses these health risks and establishes an eight-hour, time-weighted average for the permissible exposure limit (PEL) and other requirements.
The rule applies to situations where an electrician could encounter an application that would exceed the PEL.
OSHA has spent the past two years ensuring that the final rule is followed.
Simply stated, Mobarak said the standard provides:
- Table 1—Essentially, a table that matches 18 common construction tasks and
- Effective control methods;
- Objective data—Data provided by the manufacturer or industry wide surveys that prove users are below PEL when correctly using their product;
- Self-monitoring program—This can be the most time-consuming and costly method for employers. They must purchase and use air quality monitoring systems, acquire test data and provide employee medical assessments.
“What is important to remember is that respirable silica doesn’t cause immediate effects. Rather, the risks associated with it manifest over a long period of time. This is what OSHA seeks to limit with this standard—limiting the long-term risk of silica exposure so users can live longer, healthier lives,” Mobarak said.
Basic tools that potentially could create silica dust and may require dust control use “dry” methods of dust control. “Wet” dust control is used for larger equipment such as concrete saws and using water to reduce dust from cuttings from entering the air.
Dry systems are integrated on cordless tools, or tools that can be hooked up to a vacuum with dust shroud, Mobarak continued. Some companies also offer cordless, self-powered dust extractors that can be used directly on the tool.
“Milwaukee has a complete suite of solutions for every one of our products that perform in drilling, chipping, grinding and cutting applications,” Mobarak said.
“Four years before OSHA began enforcing the regulation, Milwaukee introduced the world’s first universal self-powered dust extractor, the M12 Hammervac, which is compatible with all major power tool brands of SDS Plus rotary hammers and AC/DC hammer drills.”
This product recently was updated with a new dust box to allow users to easily clean the filter with the press of a button.
Last year, Milwaukee introduced the Dust Trap drilling shroud, the first dust-control solution to be OSHA-compliant without the use of a vacuum. Attached to the front of the rotary hammer, it keeps dust contained throughout the duration of the drilling process.
Also available is an 8-gal.dust extractor with a cleaning mechanism that activates on the main filter to help maintain consistent airflow and suction. The extractor’s unique two-step filtration system includes a 99.97% efficient HEPA filter as the final step of filtration, leading to cleaner air, reduced service cost over time and increased lifetime of the HEPA filter. All these features lead to a product that produces power and consistent suction for cleaner air.
“Training is incredibly important to following the new OSHA standard and keeping users safe,” Mobarak said. “This is a huge overhaul to the industry, and it’s up to all of us—not just OSHA—to prioritize the education and hands-on training that needs to take place.”
DeWalt is obsessed with applications when it comes to concrete dust management, said Richard Cacchiotti, group product manager of concrete products.
“We provide more than 220 applications among SDS PLUS, SDS MAX, Demolition Hammers and grinders,” he said. “Typically, we do not produce dust systems that attach to other company’s tools. Shrouds all are DeWalt-specific. Since we launched dust-collection products in 2011, we have been focused on delivering the best total system in the industry. Safety professionals have consistently told us that they want one company and system—they are not interested in a mixed bag approach.”
All DeWalt SDS Plus, SDS Max and demolition tools can be equipped with a dust-management system. They come in two categories: OSHA-compliant or part of an OSHA-compliant system.
“Compliant for DeWalt is 100% Table 1 complaint out of the box,” Cacchiotti said. “Nothing needs to be added—the user only has to attach a side handle or attach the extractor to the rotary hammer. Our ‘Part of an OSHA-complaint system’ allows users to assemble the system that is best for the application they are performing.”
Currently, Cacchiotti continued, we see general contractors leading the charge to require companies to use dust management.
“Most GCs we work with,” he said, “require subs to submit their dust plan with their proposal/RFQ. They are the ones with the most to lose in a stop-work situation.
“Most companies supply the main application solutions for the worker. Niche applications will be the future of dust collection. Cordless solutions are here now and will continue to be the path forward. Our focus has been on providing the best cordless solutions,” Cacchiotti said.
For example, the 20V Max DCH273 brushless rotary hammer and onboard dust extractor were designed around the anchors that electricians use.
“We worked backward from the application to provide the most ergonomic package possible, as electricians are typically drilling overhead when using rod hanging systems,” Cacchiotti said.
Concrete Products Manager Mitch Burdick said dust control creates safer work sites by reducing workers’ exposure to silica dust.
“Commercial electricians may encounter silica dust when drilling overhead to anchor threaded rod for hanging unistrut/conduit,” Burdick said. “Dry methods involve attachments that fit on a tool (for example, a grinder cutting guard) that help capture the dust created from an application and collect it via a hose into a dust extractor canister. There is a range of attachments to help collect dust from applications for drilling, demolition, cutting and grinding in concrete.”
There also are dust extractors designed with CFM, HEPA and other filtration systems that help control the dust at the application, and these tools can also be used for post construction cleanup.
Bosch offers a variety of attachments for collecting dust for rotary and demolition hammers in the drilling and demolition applications, surface grinding shrouds that fit both small and large grinders for concrete grinding applications, and cutting tuck pointing guards that fit small angle grinders for cutting concrete and mortar applications.
“We offer 18V compact ‘on-tool’ dust extractors that allow contractors to drill into concrete—especially overhead—and effectively capture dust without the need to pull a vacuum around the job site,” Burdick said. “We also have a compact 3-gal., 18V dust extractor for mobile clean up.”
In addition, Bosch provides a variety of attachments to collect dust for handheld circular saws, bench-top miter/table saws, jigsaws, sanders and routers. Bosch offers high CFM dust extractors that can be connected to these attachments through a vacuum hose, where the CFM from the extractor collects the dust from the shroud and pulls it through a HEPA filter and into a fleece filter bag inside the canister.
Burdick said wet methods deliver water to the application to help prevent dust from becoming airborne. However, the water also creates a wet slurry from the application, which has to be disposed of properly.
Common situations where electricians encounter the need for dust control include drilling holes for cable trays or coring to pass conduit for electrical lines, said Khadija Talley, CSP, health, safety and environmental services product manager for Hilti. Lowering this risk benefits employers and employees. Dust-control systems help reduce exposure levels of dust, provide safer work environments and also can increase productivity.
“Hilti designs dust-control solutions as a system,” Talley said. “Components are the tool, dust-control accessory, and dust extractor or water supply. We design these components as a system to help ensure effectiveness.”
Talley said drills and core rigs can be equipped to control dust. Many power tools have shroud accessories that connect the tool to a dust extractor. This helps reduce the amount of airborne silica dust from the generation point. There may still be concrete chips and material visible, as the primary objective is to reduce the amount of dust in the air.
Twenty years ago, job sites looked different.
“Now workers are expected to work with hard hats, fall protection, and safety glasses if they are planning to work on tasks where personal protective equipment could help them to work safer. In the future, PPE protection and engineering controls, which can reduce silica dust exposure, will be a common part of job sites. It will become embedded in the way we do work to help provide healthier and safer job sites,” she said.
“Dust control will continue to evolve to include more solutions for the many different tasks conducted on job sites.”
For more detail on OSHA’s silica ruling, read Tom O’Connor’s May 2016 Safety column, “Important Modifications.”