The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced an update to a rule designed to limit workers’ exposure to crystalline silica dust. Marking the first revision to the rule since 1971, the update cuts the volume of crystalline silica allowable from 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 50 micrograms, averaged over an eight-hour shift. (For more information on the rule and its rollout, visit www.osha.gov/silica.)
We spoke with Bosch’s Tom Grego, marketing manager, and Mike Iezzi, product manager, about what this ruling means for the flooring installation industry and what steps installers and contractors can take to protect themselves from silica dust.
Q: Let’s start by talking about silica dust in general. This is a material that can be kicked up by something as simple as grinding concrete, right?
Grego: You hit the nail right on the head. Anything that kicks up a lot of dust can cause exposure to crystalline silica. However, something that needs to be addressed is that because of the way these new parameters are set up, you might not be kicking up dust but someone else on the jobsite might be, and you’ll still be over the limit. It might not even be grinding concrete. Someone could simply be sweeping up and that will cause exposure. With this new rule, there is a wholesale change that needs to happen. We all need to be even better about managing the jobsite and managing dust control.
It's going to require a system change and a methodology change. It’s going to require different ways for how jobsites are cleaned up and how dust is moved.
Iezzi: If you need a visual, when you’re surface grinding without dust collection you see dust flying all over the place. With dust collection, the cloud around the grinder is dissipated quite a bit. The best analogy to this new rule would be a reduced dust cloud—not just around the grinder, but the whole area where everyone is doing construction.
Grego: That’s a good way to look at it. However, I’d like to add that there is no one system in and of itself that can completely eliminate airborne silica dust. It’s going to require a system change and a methodology change. It’s going to require different ways for how jobsites are cleaned up and how dust is moved. This ruling is strict in the fact that a lot of things can contribute to a failure.
Q: It’s important to talk about how this rule will require serious changes in methods and management, but also it’s important to remember that this rule is designed to keep workers healthier, right?
Grego: You bring up a very good point. And that’s why we at Bosch have been on the cutting edge of developing dustless systems, long before this OSHA requirement. Our Speed Clean Bits reduce dust while creating clean holes in concrete. When they are used in conjunction with certain anchoring adhesives, it also reduces the installation time significantly. So in the long run these types of rules offer a number of benefits along with the initial pain.
Q: Tell me a little more about these Speed Clean Bits.
Grego: Dust is removed through the center of the bit, which is connected to a vacuum system. This allows the system to collect the dust right as it’s being generated. The hole is also clean, so once you’ve finished drilling you can already apply the adhesive and get the anchor set.
The Speed Bits fit both our SDS-plus and SDS-max hammers.
Iezzi: I wanted to mention that we at Bosch have been involved with dust collection for many years now. We have dust collection attachments for our grinders, planers, orbital sanders, routers, saws and other tools.
Q: What are some steps installers and contractors can take now to lower their exposure to silica dust?
Grego: In addition to wearing all of the safety equipment—visual and hearing protection, dust masks, etc.—there are a number of dust control systems on the market that are available and have been available. The food industry, nuclear energy, science labs and hospitals are some industries that already have very strict regulations for dust control.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Grego: The biggest message I want to pass along is it’s not such a simple law to obey. It’s not like when you’re on the highway and as long as you’re not going above 55 mph you’re okay. Someone could empty a dust collector the wrong way or sweep the stairs the wrong way, and you’re no longer in compliance. If only part of the jobsite is compliant, your OSHA compliance is in jeopardy. Being OSHA compliant in the future is going to require a sizeable method change.
For more information on Bosch and its line of power tools and dust collection systems, visit www.boschtools.com/us/en.