Concrete grinding, drilling, sawing, and demolition projects regularly produce unhealthy and dangerous amounts of construction dust. These functions are often used on materials including concrete, brick, mortar, and stone, all of which contain concentrated amounts of crystalline silica. In concentrated form crystalline silica poses little to no risk to worker health, however, once ground or cut it forms a dust that can be released into the worker’s breathing zone. This silica-containing dust becomes particularly detrimental once it is airborne.
Last September, OSHA enacted its recently updated Silica Dust Standard, requiring the entire construction industry to comply with its new regulations. Under the new standard, a workers’ permissible exposure limit (PEL) has been reduced to 50 micrograms of respirable silica dust per cubic meter of air (μg/m3) averaged over an 8-hour workday.
Employers were also required to create and implement an exposure control plan that clearly defined effective methods for reducing their employees’ exposure to silica dust. This included requirements for measuring the amount of silica dust that each individual worker is exposed to, permitting employee access to zones where silica exposures are above the PEL, and providing routine medical examinations to employees who are exposed to respirable silica dust on a day-to-day basis. In conjunction with the exposure control plan, training must also be provided to educate employees on the hazard that is silica dust, as well as how to properly operate and clean control equipment to help limit exposures.
A number of control methods can be applied to help prevent or reduce silica dust exposure. Water-spraying stone and concrete prior to cutting or grinding is a prevention method that helps to eliminate silica dust at the source. Water spraying is not a perfect control method and becomes more effective when paired with an industrial vacuum system. Vacuum systems provide an extra defense against dust production and can be used as an attachment to grinding equipment, or during worksite clean-up.
Concrete Dust Extractor – Eliminating Silica Dust with Industrial Vacuums
Vacuum systems, specifically with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, are useful tools for efficiently minimizing exposure to airborne silica dust on dusty job sites. These systems are the number one choice for concrete dust removal as they possess the ability to collect and retain dust as it forms without dispersing it back into the work environment.
Collecting silica dust that is fine in composition requires a graduated, multi-stage filtration system. Dust is first captured by coarser filters and as it moves through the system, the filters progressively become smaller, and dust is finally retained by fine, HEPA filters. At the bare minimum, HEPA filters should retain 99.97% of dust particles. It is essential that they be the last stage of the filtration system to prevent small dust particles from passing back through the vacuum.
A large benefit of HEPA vacuum cleaners is how universal they are. In addition to job site cleaning that removes dust accumulations, they can be used in various other ways to minimize silica exposure limits in construction workers.
- Vacuum Attachments for Power Tools – During grinding, drilling, and cutting, tools that are integrated with a HEPA-filtrated industrial vacuum hose can quickly and simultaneously suck up the dust that is produced. Concrete grinders with vacuum attachments are particularly advantageous because they eliminate silica dust at the source.
- Difficult To Reach Areas – Spaces such as overhead pipes and beams may be difficult to clean due to the fact that they are harder to reach. Since dust accumulation in these areas can contribute to both health and fire hazards, ensuring they have been properly cleaned is just as important. Using the correct vacuum hose and accessories, cleaning these spaces can be easily accomplished.
- Decontaminating Employee Attire – Prior to completing work and before entering other locations such as facility break rooms or their home, employees are required to properly clean their clothing and remove dust residue. HEPA-filtrated industrial vacuum systems are efficient for removing silica dust that has built up on the employees’ uniforms. Systems should be placed at all exit locations of the job site to ensure each employee has the opportunity to clean their clothing.
All industrial vacuum systems are created to serve specific purposes and are built to meet the needs and requirements of certain facilities and industries. The different models range from stationary to portable, electric to pneumatic, or diesel.
Have any Questions? Need to Buy or Rent?
Looking for an industrial vacuum system for your next concrete assignment? At Industrial Vacuum our experienced sales staff has the expertise to assist you in selecting a vacuum system that would be most suitable for your project. Our HEPA Industrial Vacuum Systems include our Vactagon Drum Top Vac and our Hurricane line of trailer and skid-mounted vacuums, both of which are ideal for cement dust clean-up and are built to withstand wet and dry substances. For shorter, small projects we also offer vacuum rental services consisting of our Hurricane 300, 500, and 755 models. To learn more about our systems and services, please contact our sales department or request a quote today.