Dennis Markey, Marketing Director, Hilti Ireland, writes that Hilti experts were on site all week for Construction Safety Week 2020 demonstrating the ‘STOP’ method to reduce on-site dust by up to 99%.
Dust occurs at nearly every point in the construction process and has hazardous consequences for the health and safety of on-site workers and the surrounding environment.
What Is Dust?
Dust comprises tiny solid particles that are highly dispersed and easily circulated in the air, meaning exposure to dust can affect not just the worker generating the dust but other people in the vicinity.
Dust particles can be microscopic. When smaller than 10 microns, the dust is classified as fine dust or particulate matter (PM). Dust bigger than 10 microns is classified as coarse dust. The average human hair is about 60 microns thick.
There is a variety of dust types that occur on a job site. Inhalable dust, such as wood dust, can be trapped in the mouth and nose, and it is less than 100 microns in size, affecting productivity and causing significant discomfort for workers. The most harmful dust is respirable dust or silica dust, which is less than 10 microns in size and penetrates deep into the lungs. This is generated through abrasive treatment, such as drilling, chiselling, sawing, or grinding of silica-containing materials like concrete, mortar, and sandstone.
The Consequences Of Inhaling Silica Dust
Over-exposure to fine dust is extremely dangerous. Regularly breathing it in can lead to a build-up in the lungs. Once the dust particles have reached parts of the respiratory system, they interfere with oxygen and cause long-term damage. This can lead to serious health problems, including lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and silicosis.
Effective Dust Control Solutions
Hilti has a dust research centre in Germany, which plays a vital role in ensuring that Hilti power tools are designed and developed to control dust. Hilti’s dust experts are part of a community actively developing relevant standards like EN 50632.
HSE scientist, John Saunders, who reviewed the work of the Hilti dust research centre, commented about the Hilti approach to tackling dust, “It’s clear that the design of extraction has not been added to the tool as an afterthought; rather, it has been embedded into the tool design at an early stage.”
Hilti has developed several dust control solutions for the majority of customers’ application needs.
Stop Principle As A Guide To Control Dust
STOP (substitution, technical, organisational, protection) defines the sequence of controlling risk as follows:
- Substitution is the elimination of a risk by using safer alternatives. By doing so, the root cause of hazards can be avoided (eg, for some applications, we recommend diamond drilling or direct fastening where possible to minimise dust and Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome [HAVS] exposure.)
- Technical measures are machinery, tools or technologies to reduce dust in the air, to minimise the dangerous effects of dust for people (eg, the Hilti Dust Removal System [DRS] and Active Vibration reduction [AVR] are practical harmonised systems designed to reduce risk). Hilti has also introduced NFC tags in our tools, which talk to the Hilti Connect app, allowing operatives to access safety information and training videos, as well as safe exposure information at the click of a button from wherever they’re working.
- Organisational measures are made possible by different working methods and improved work organisation (eg, Hilti ON!Track software allows users to manage employee certifications and offers quick and easily accessible health and safety information, such as exposure action values [EAVs] for employees on the job).
- Personal protective measures are needed where risks remain. The user is exposed to this risk. Without these protective measures, there can be health hazards. So, personal protective equipment (PPE) is required to cover the remaining risks. The technical measures used to reduce dust in no means make PPE optional. This is something we take seriously for our employees as well as our customers.
To learn more about how Hilti Ireland can help your business or organise a demonstration by visiting www.hilti.ie