Published : 02/09/2016 12:37:01
Categories : Sunrise Updates
You wouldn't expect a big show of hands in response to our opening question. So explain why such conditions are willingly accepted in many construction workplaces, when even a basic level of 'house-keeping' could eliminate much of this nuisance and make life more bearable.
Mention the word COST and people take notice. Mention the words HEALTH and SAFETY and they go into raptures about some ridiculous regulation or ‘job’s worth’ and invariably miss the point. The COST of dust can be your HEALTH. We’ve all heard about the history of dust in the mining industry and how the effects only surface much later in life. There’s plenty of dust-related health risks in today’s construction environment with the same potential long-term consequences.
Power tools are now available for every conceivable construction task. They are highly efficient, produce consistent and accurate results and generally reduce physical effort. They also have the potential to create large amounts of dust. Some have provision for containing and extracting dust, with guards, shields and connection ports for ‘hoovers’ (dust extractors). Sadly most of these facilities are little used – the tradesman often considers the inconvenience of an attached hose not worth the effort and a dust pan and brush are easier to carry (and cheaper) than a ‘hoover’. If only they understood the true COST of dust to themselves and others:
Dust is a direct health hazard for the tradesman but can also affect many other people in the vicinity.
So what’s the answer? Of course there are many solutions and the most appropriate will depend upon the scale of the problem:
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) in the form of a dust mask or powered respirator provides protection for the wearer. A dust mask can be a low cost, highly effective solution, for low intensity or infrequent exposure. They can however restrict the breathing process so may have detrimental effects, particularly where an activity is very physical. Powered respirators provide a constant source of clean air to the wearer and are highly recommended for more intense activities.
But remember, Personal Protection Equipment protects ONLY the wearer.
Dust Control and Dust Extraction facilities are present on many power tools or can be added. The underlying principle is that dust should be captured at source. So attaching a ‘hoover’ to a suitably shielded wood saw should mean the majority of dust, and waste products, will be captured at the cutting edge, before they can become dispersed into the atmosphere.
In principle, a ‘hoover’ or general purpose vacuum cleaner can be connected to a suitably equipped power tool and you’ll be able to grab the dust before it spews into the atmosphere. In practice, you might get this effect for the first four or five minutes with a general purpose ‘hoover’. Thereafter performance will drop off drastically:
By contrast, an industrial specification dust extractor is likely to be equipped with a variety of facilities to ensure it is fit for purpose.
In the final analysis, the most important and lasting benefit is the reduction in the health risks associated with the fine dust particles generated by various construction activities – working mortars, plasters and many engineered wood products with power tools can generate dust products that are highly undesirable, even at moderate exposure levels.
And as it happens, it is arguably no more expensive to collect dust at source, than it is to deal with the widespread mess afterwards.