Construction workers who perform concrete cutting applications are constantly exposed to silica dust. Though this dust may seem harmless on the surface, it can create significant health risks. Luckily, you can minimize concrete dust’s effects by taking the right precautions.
Dangers of Silica Dust When Cutting Concrete
Silica dust is typically found in materials like sand, granite, mortar, plaster, concrete and sandstone. These materials create fine dust when ground, cut, cored or sawed, releasing minuscule silica particles into the air.
Though silica is a natural material, it poses serious health hazards upon intake. Because this substance is so granular, it can get lodged deep into the lungs when inhaled. Prolonged silica exposure and excessive inhalation can cause irreversible lung damage, illness or diseases like chronic silicosis, emphysema and lung cancer. In some severe cases, high levels of silica dust inhalation can be fatal.
How to Reduce Dust When Cutting Concrete
Though breathing silica dust from concrete can be dangerous, there are various ways to protect yourself on the job site. You can control dust levels by implementing the following measures into your work routine.
1. Use Wet Control Methods
You can reduce silica dust generation when cutting concrete by employing wet cutting techniques. Wet systems hold water in pressurized tanks, which spray a continuous moisture stream onto the saw’s rotating blade as it cuts through the concrete. This process significantly lowers dust emissions and promotes faster dust settling.
When wet cutting concrete, verify that your water flow rate reaches at least half a liter per minute, as anything lower will impact cutting performance. You should also pressurize your water tank regularly to maintain proper flow rates.
RELATED ARTICLE: Wet vs. Dry Concrete Cutting Explained
2. Implement Dust Extraction Systems
Using dust extraction systems on the job site is another effective way to reduce dust levels when cutting concrete. These solutions include high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters specially fitted to cutting tools to draw in concrete dust at the point of sawing, cutting or drilling while preventing it from escaping the vacuum system.
If you want to work with dust extraction systems, you can choose from exhaust ventilation systems and high-powered industrial vacuums.
3. Wear Respiratory Protective Equipment
Even when using wet cutting and dust extraction systems on the job site, you should wear respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to further prevent dust inhalation. When used in conjunction with other dust control methods, dust respirators prevent wearers from inhaling hazardous dust particles.
Be sure to verify that your dust respirators are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) before use.
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