If your workforce breaks down concrete, either by cutting, drilling, grinding, or crushing, they are at risk of developing a harmful respiratory disease from exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Some of the greatest threats to our health aren’t readily apparent; silica is one such threat. Construction professionals are accustomed to working in the presence of fine particulates. A construction professional will be exposed to an array of airborne particulates each and every day, so it’s up to contractors to educate their workforce and implement protocols that help minimize exposure to respirable particles like crystalline silica.
In part one, we discussed the dangers of silica, how it is produced, and how standard 29 CFR 1926.1153 influences your workers’ exposure to it. Now, we will continue to explore this subject, focusing on new robotic systems that are being designed to help minimize silica hazards.
Any roofing attorney in Tennessee will tell you the same thing, drilling in concrete always produces a significant amount of silica dust, which can damage your workers’ lungs if left unchecked. Plus, drilling also exposes workers to hand vibration and noise at levels past the recommended human threshold. Fortunately, two studies funded by The Center for Construction Research and Training and the University of California at Berkeley have made considerable progress in reducing the damage caused by drilling.
Robotic Systems Aim to Decrease Silica Exposure
One new robotic system can measure productivity against the production of silica dust when utilizing electric and pneumatic drills. By testing these two types of drills without engineering controls like vacuum or water to mitigate dust levels, researchers have found that each drill’s productivity is roughly equivalent, but pneumatic drills tend to produce more dust.
With vibration levels five times greater than the electric drill being tested, pneumatic drills are prone to producing more silica dust during drilling. In fact, pneumatic drills generated as much as 444 times the permissible amount of silica dust exposure allowed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The electric drill, although much less hazardous than the pneumatic drill, still produced silica dust over 11 times more than OSHA’s guidelines permitted. As a result, it is recommended that your workers are equipped with electric drills in lieu of pneumatic drills.
Evaluating the Drill Bit
The same robotic system mentioned above can be utilized to evaluate which type of drill bit produces the smallest amount of silica dust. The study found that sharp, carbide-tipped drill bits produced less dust than other types of bits. Utilizing dull bits can not only increase the drilling time by nearly 60 percent, it can also lead to nearly twice as much silica dust, which is only enhanced by the longer duration of exposure spent drilling with a dull bit.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.