Small amounts of dust can cause big problems on construction sites. To further make the point, Sundt dedicated a day during Safety Week to concentrate on the hazards of silica at our job sites across the Southwest.
Silica is a mineral commonly found in many materials on construction sites, including soil, sand, concrete, masonry, rock, granite and landscaping. The dust created by cutting, grinding, drilling or disturbing these materials can contain small crystalline silica particles. Respirable silica dust can cause lung disease. It only takes a small amount of airborne silica dust to create a health hazard.
“In preparation to comply with new OSHA standards and protect our employees from exposure to silica dust, we have been testing numerous tools for drilling, grinding, chipping and cutting of concrete,” said Sundt Area Safety Manager Jerri Dragt. “The tools must either capture the silica dust or wet methods must be used to control the dust from becoming airborne.”
Workers at our Las Cruces High School Phase 2 project watched demonstrations on dust-busting products earlier this week. Many of the tools have vacuum attachments and filters, capturing the dust before it enters the air. Our Concrete Division is testing the tools with different manufacturers to see which ones best serve its needs.
There also are attachments for tools that spray water at the point of the cutting tool for saws. When chipping or jackhammering, a constant spray of water is beneficial.
The hazards of silica dust and the recommended controls are also a regular topic for our weekly safety meetings. The most important part of the discussion is eliminating the dust in the first place.
The mission of Safety Week is to collectively raise the awareness of the construction industry’s continuing commitment to eliminating worker injury, and to communicate its dedication to a shared culture of care and concern. This is the third year we have served as a sponsor of the event.