A “Cutting” Issue

Do you use chop saws?  Is the saw is sending clouds of silica dust into the air? Do you know the potential hazard for breathing dust from cutting stones, masonry, bricks, some tiles, glass, or CMU? Chop saws can pose a potential “cutting” issue for employees working in the construction industry.

Dangers of Saw Dust

Saws can generate dust of all particle sizes, and you should assume some of the particles are small enough to get deep into the lungs of all people nearby.  Cutting, drilling or grinding many materials, can release crystalline silica.

Some materials are processed in a way that creates crystalline silica.  This is the more dangerous form of silica and is associated with heat.  However, substances that were not crystalline before the cut can become crystalline when you go to cut it. This is because the heat generated from the process

Also, the smaller the particle size, the greater the risk for the dust particles of crystalline silica to get into the deepest parts of the lungs.  Once there, they cause damage that can include silicosis over time.  In addition, the more crystalline silica in someone’s lungs, the greater the risk of damage. This can become life threatening, in the form of silicosis and other diseases.

OSHA Standards on Crystalline Silica

Whenever there is a life threatening occupational risk, employers must diminish the risk. Employers can do this by training employees on the hazard and implementing controls or avoidance methods. Next, employers must test these controls that they are used properly and are effective.  For handheld power saws and many other types of equipment in the construction field, OSHA has developed a standard that makes it simple to minimize the risk to respirable crystalline silica.  Generally, integrated dust control systems are required to be part of the equipment.  These generally use water or HEPA vacuum systems to capture the dust.  The standard also defines when the systems are not sufficient requiring that respirators will also need to be worn.

Resources for Employers

Additionally, OSHA just posted a handy video for employers to use to better understand the ways to control the silica dust risk, and follow the table to determine the minimum options for equipment and respirator use.

If you need to provide training on silica hazards and respirator use, but don’t know where to start, call United Alliance Services. We can provide the annual training with documentation, consultation with management on options to create a safer workplace, and survey your job sites to identify these and other risks. For more information, visit our website to learn more.

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