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.