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Ways To Control Dust When Cutting Concrete

Concrete cutting produces heavy amounts of dust, which can be harmful to workers and passersby. What makes concrete dust so harmful is that it contains crystalline silica, a fine material that can cause long-term respiratory illness. Constant exposure to crystalline silica can eventually lead to silicosis in unprotected workers.

Dust control should always be a primary concern when cutting concrete. The following offers a few mitigation measures you can use to control dust production. Undertaking these measures can also reduce the likelihood of respiratory ailments caused by dust exposure.

Wet Cutting

A dry concrete surface is bound to make lots of dust when cut using dry grinding and cutting equipment. Dampening the same surface with sufficient amounts of water reduces dust buildup by a significant amount. So it's little wonder that wet cutting is a technique preferred by contractors looking to minimize their exposure to silicates and other harmful particles produced through dry cutting.

There are plenty of methods that can be used to facilitate wet cutting. The simplest method involves a five-gallon bucket of water with a small hole at the bottom of the bucket. This particular method works well for relatively small jobs.

Concrete cutting tools with built-in wet cutting ports are best suited for large-scale cutting jobs. Connected to a portable water tank or another nearby water source, wet cutting ports direct water onto the cutting surface or the cutting wheel itself. Wet cutting ports help reduce the amount of dust produced while cutting concrete. In addition, it also reduces cutting wheel temperatures, thereby promoting longer-lasting equipment.

Keep in mind that wet cutting needs to be planned out well before the first cut is made. Most importantly, you'll need to have continuous access to potable water.

Vacuum and Exhaust Ventilation

Vacuuming offers another way of controlling dust buildup within the worksite. The use of vacuums and vacuum-assisted tools can help reduce hazards associated with excess dust buildup. This mitigation method can also be used in combination with wet cutting to reduce dust buildup on particularly sensitive worksites.

As with wet cutting, concrete cutting tools can also be outfitted with vacuum attachments to remove dust at the source. Most industrial vacuum systems are equipped with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to prevent silicates and other harmful materials from being exhausted from the vacuum. Some industrial vacuums can also be used to remove slurry created by wet cutting through concrete.

If your vacuum lacks a self-cleaning feature, you'll need to find alternative ways to control internal dust buildup within the filter. In some cases, you may need to turn the vacuum off and manually evacuate dust from the filter before using it again. You should also take care when emptying vacuum canisters or removing vacuum bags full of concrete dust.

Personal Protection

Not only should the worksite be well protected against dust buildup, but workers themselves should also have the appropriate protection available. In accordance with preventative work practices, all workers must wear respiratory protective equipment (RPE) whenever there are significant dust hazards on the worksite.

Disposable dust respirators may not be enough to protect workers against dust inhalation, especially when there's plenty of concrete cutting being done. You're better off using half-face dust respirators for open spaces and full-face dust respirators for concrete cutting in confined areas. These respirators offer protection in excess of OSHA's permissible exposure limits (PELs).

To ensure these devices remain effective, you should always have your RPE fit tested before it's used. Workers should also be aware of how to use this equipment properly to ensure their own safety on the worksite.

There are plenty of dangers when it comes to concrete cutting. The best practices listed above can help mitigate many of these dangers, resulting in a safer worksite. To learn more about concrete cutting, contact a company like Hardcore Concrete Cutting.