Be Safe From Silica Dust

Anyone working on concrete or stone knows how messy a job it is. However, the actual mess from stone or concrete makes isn't the real issue on the job site.  Breathing the dust in is the major concern.

Silica is a basic compound (or mineral) found in concrete, concrete blocks, cement or mortar and is also found in masonry bricks, tiles and asphalt which contain rock or stone.  When any of these are cut or drilled a cloud of dust is created within which contains Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS).  Inhaling this is very hazardous to your health, and to anyone in the environment where you're working.

According to the Health and Safety Executive:

RCS is harmful to the lungs, causing the disease silicosis in which the lungs develop small, hard nodules of scar tissue resulting in coughing and breathing difficulties. The speed of onset of silicosis depends on the exposure. Although low-level chronic exposure to RCS may take many years to produce the disease, intense daily exposure can cause severe illness much more quickly.

How to Protect Yourself from Concrete and Stone Dust

So how do we protect ourselves and others from this dust.  This is not an exhaustive guide for protection against RCS, everyone should be following the relevant guidelines on RSC control laid out by their employer, site manager and health safety bodies.

1. Use Proper PPE

When drilling or chipping concrete/stone a good quality dust mask will help protect you from the fine dust particles created, look for a mask that actively filters the air you're breathing, preferably through a HEPA filter.

2. Use a Dust Extractor When Possible

If the power tool you are using has a dust extraction port, hook it up to an "M Class" dust extractor unit, such as the Dewalt DWV902M M class extractor or the Makita 447M 240v 45l wet & dry extractor.

The 'M' class is due to the type of very fine dust created by stone or concrete that the extractor will trap.  This helps minimise the release of dust into the air while you work.  Unfortunately not all power tools are fitted with dust extraction ports, this is especially true when using a heavy hammer drill or chisel.

3. Attach a Dust Extraction Kit to Your Drill

Two power tool manufacturers in particular are taking the need to minimise the production of harmful RSC while you work very seriously.  We've seen Bosch and Makita launch dust extraction kits that are designed to fit onto your drill, both claim that their kits present you with a virtually dust-free environment while you drill or chisel.

Makita's DX02 benefits from a HEPA filter which is regarded as the ultimate filtration system for collecting the tiniest of harmful dust particles, efficient to around 99.75%.

This is a great solution for anyone using the cordless Makita DHR243 and its an accessory that other manufacturers will no doubt be developing for use on their power tools.  Especially as it slots directly onto the hammer drill and allows you to reduce the release of harmful dust when you can't be hooked up to a dust extractor.

Another great product for handling dust is the Bosch GDE162 adaptor which is designed for use on all drilling tools and in particular core cutters.  It will even extract dust during wet drilling, and it doesn't add any weight to your the drill.

4. Attach a Dust Extractor to your Extraction Kit

Recently both Bosch and Makita have launched products that combine the power of an 'M Class' dust extractor/vacuum with the ability to attach a filter system directly to your power tool.  This creates the perfect solution to minimise the release of dust into the air when drilling or chipping stone, brick or masonry.

Both products are designed to fit onto your hammer drill and catch the harmful silica dust as its being created.

The Bosch GDEMAX Professional Extraction Adaptor is specifically designed to eliminate the production of dust during chiselling.  The very nature of chiselling, creates lots of dust from the surface being hammered, but Bosch claims the GDEMAX will provide you with a virtually dust free environment.  It fits all current models of SDS Max hammers from Bosch and it compatible with bits up to 600mm.

When the unit is connected to one of Bosch's 'M Class' vacuums, the dust extraction process is started as soon as the hammer drill is activated.

Makita has a similar product available now called the 195866-2 Dust Extractor Attachment Set is designed for their range of SDS max hammers.  The unit fits onto your power tool, capturing the dust at the very point that its being created, then extracts the dust down into the "M Class" vacuum cleaner.

Thankfully the power tool manufacturers are taking the risks of RCS seriously and it's great to see more and more kits coming onto the market to deal with dust as its being generated.


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Boiler Types Explained

So how many different boiler types are there and how do they differ from each other?  Well remember that a boiler doesn't have to use natural gas to burn and produce heat, oil, propane gas and electricity are used and I suppose a ground source or air source heat pump can be classed as a boiler aswell.

Lets also clear up the condensing bit as well.  For years a boiler was a boiler, it burnt a fossil fuel and this produced heat but in April 2005 the building regulations were ammended so that any boiler installed or replaced needed to be SEDBUK A rate efficient.  This meant that all of the boiler manufactures had to make their boilers more efficient and the easiest way to do this was to make them a condensing boiler.  A condensing boiler still burns a fossil fuel but the boiler extracts more heat from the exhaust gasses which would normally be released outside via the flue.  This in turn means the water vapour within the exhaust gases cools and turns into condensed water.

Hopefully that makes sense and you now understand what a condensing boiler is, lets move onto the different types of boiler

Combination Boiler

A combination boiler or 'combi' is a very clever space-saving idea, and an increasingly popular choice in UK homes. In fact, combis now account for well over half of the boilers sold in the UK each year.

A combi boiler is both a high-efficiency water heater and a central heating boiler, combined (hence the name) within one compact unit. Therefore, no separate hot water cylinder is required, meaning the traditional airing cupboard can be converted into something else.

Further benefits of a combi boiler includes hot water being delivered through your taps or shower at mains pressure. So you can enjoy powerful showering* without the need for a pump.

Another combi boiler benefit is that it can generally save you money on installation time and costs, since no tank in the roof space means less pipe work and a shorter installation time.


System Boiler

A system boiler heats your central heating system directly and produces central heating water which heats your hot water cylinder.

A system boiler, just like a regular (conventional) boiler works on the principle of stored hot water. However, a system boiler differs from a regular boiler because the pump and sometimes other components of the heating system are incorporated into the boiler.  The central heating system with a system boiler is always pressurised, this means that the feed and expansion tank in the loft is not needed and the central heating system is filled up via the cold water main.


Regular Boiler

Regular boilers do the same thing as a system boiler but the central heating is not pressurised, therefore a feed and expansion tank is needed at the highest point of the system, normally the loft.

If you want hot water with your regular boiler then you'll need a hot water cylinder.

Traditional heating systems will use a regular boiler, system boilers are a more modern way of installing a heating system.


Electric Boilers

These are similar to the boilers above and can be central heating only or a combination boiler.  Instead of burning a fossil fuel the boiler uses electrical elements which are heated via electricity, similar to a kettle.  Central heating water is heated by passing over these elements.


Air Source Heat Pumps

An air source heat pump extracts heat from the outside air in the same way that a fridge extracts heat from its inside.  It is essentially the reverse of an air conditioning system, it can extract heat from the outside air even when the temperature is as low as -15° C.  Heat pumps have some impact on the environment as they need electricity to run but they are efficient and are predicited to become more and more popular as a heating source in years to come.

Due to the air source unit being installed outside the central heating system needs to have anti-freeze added to it and the anti-freeze level should be checked on an annual basis.


Ground Source Heat Pumps

Ground source heat pumps use pipes which are buried in and extract heat from the ground. This heat can then be used to heat radiators and hot water in your home.
A ground source heat pump circulates a mixture of water and antifreeze around a loop of pipe, called a ground loop or the pipe work is laid into a vertical bore hole – these are buried in your garden.  Heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid in the pipe work and then passes through a heat exchanger in the heat pump.  Ground stays at a fairly constant temperature under the surface, so the heat pump can be used throughout the year.

The length of the ground loop or number of bore holes depends on the size of your home and the amount of heat you need.

This form of heating is gaining in popularity but initial installatin can be very expensive.



We hope that this clarifies the different types of boiler and you will be able to identify the system you have at home and the system you may wish to change to in the future.

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