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By now we should all be aware of the dangers of inhaling asbestos that can lead to the chronic inflammatory disease Asbestosis, lung cancer and death.
What many of us still remain blissfully unaware of is the alarming fact that inhaling silica, ever present on every worksite, can be just as dangerous and deadly as asbestos.
In response to a recent Worksafe guide, Controlling Construction dust with on-tool extraction, we’ve decided to devote most of this power & hand tools feature to creating more awareness around the very real dangers of inhaling toxic and potentially carcinogenic dust particles.
THIS IS NOT PC MADNESS!
OK, I admit it. When I first started investigating dust inhalation on construction sites as a very real problem and dust extraction as the urgent solution, I cynically thought power tool brands would be pushing their own products and that Worksafe New Zealand would be full of faceless bureaucrats pushing unnecessary guidelines on behalf of a politically correct Nanny State. I was wrong on both counts!
Speaking with great passion, Accent Tools’ Andrew Way sets the dust flying when says: “This is as an industry-wide problem that we need to address. Everybody should be involved to educate the market.
“I don’t want to get bogged down with promoting specific Hitachi tools. It’s more that I want the whole industry to be aware and informed.”
IT’S IN THE AIR WE BREATHE
In place of hard and fast stats, Worksafe tells me: “Inhalation of dust in the workplace results in very serious and long term affects that often aren’t recognised or diagnosed until years later.”
Feeling the gravitas I phone Worksafe’s expert. It takes a couple of days. When I do get through to Worksafe’s Vadim Spice, he’s quick to apologise for not getting back sooner and has good reason.
He explains: “I’m in court this week. It’s one of the unpleasant realities of my job. I’m a prosecution witness. A construction worker fell down a hole that wasn’t secured and he’s now a cripple.”
You soon gain the impression that this man cares deeply about the safety of all construction workers. They’re his construction workers! Like Andrew Way, Vadim Spice’s passion is obvious with every breath.
He protectively extols: “I love the building and construction workers! I’m all about creating strategies that inclusively involve the whole industry to be safer at work.”
Of these, he goes on to explain, the greater harm to construction workers is what they breathe in.
“The biggest contributor to fatalities and lung disease is silica. Silica is an abundant resource, it’s in sand. When you combine it and crush it and turn it into a fine dust and start blowing it around a work site it gets really dangerous.
“We’ve been aware of the dangers for some time, but until now it hasn’t had the focus. We’re raising awareness that silica creates Silicosis. In some cases inhaling silica is as dangerous as asbestos. It’s one of the biggest risks.”
WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY
With a foot in both camps, Andrew Way acknowledges there is a certain irony in supplying both the Hitachi power tools that create dust and the Nilfisk commercial cleaners and vacuums that extract and collect it.
“If I have to create dust to complete that job, how do I collect that dust? That’s where the LEV (Local Exhaust Ventilation) comes in. Power tools should always be built with a dust extraction port. It must successfully conduct that dust and contain it to be disposed of.
“It’s not just the operator who is exposed to dust. It’s all the other workers around. From the source to the end game when it gets disposed of, the dust must be contained safely.”
A quick web search shows us that all the major power tool brands have efficient LEV systems built into their power tools, usually in the form of a dust port. In many cases simple and inexpensive LEV accessories can also be retro-fitted to existing equipment.
WE BUILT THEM, BUT THEY NEVER USED THEM
As Andrew Way explains, “For the past 10 years there have been plenty of power tools with dust ports. They are what we are now calling LEVs. It’s not a new concept but until now those ports have been largely ignored.
“It’s not uncommon to see someone using a circular saw one-handed and in the other hand he’s literally holding a vacuum cleaner hose trying to catch the dust as it flies through the air.
“Or they have a port where the hose loosely fits and they try and duct tape that together to seal off the dust. All that does is create leakage and an opportunity for dust to circulate out into the atmosphere.”
Stopping dust circulating in the atmosphere is Worksafe’s priority.
“The best control is extraction,” says Vadim Spice, “essentially you’re taking away 90% of the product at source. Some of these power tools are extremely clever and the new cordless models in particular.
“The solutions are formidable. Makita for example have got a cordless dust extractor back pack that connects to any tool. It’s phenomenal.”
CORDLESS IS THE WAY FORWARD
Taking our cue from Vadim Spice’s cordless comments we cross to Makita NZ’s Jamie Teague. For starters we ask about Makita’s “Ahead of the Game” roadshow that kicked off in Auckland in May.
“It was a good way to showcase new product coming to the market and get it into the hands of end users – the tradies and our customers,” he enthuses.
When I tell him that Vadim Spice is a huge supporter of cordless, Jamie Teague says: “Vadim is one of the good guys. The main thing for us is that Worksafe contacted all the power tool suppliers and players in the industry.
“Everything has been done in consultation. They understand the products that are available in the market around dust extraction. That’s been the best thing. Worksafe understand what products are available. We’re on the same side.
“They recognise that cordless is new technology. They need to adopt this tech as the industry moves forward. The whole power tool industry is moving to cordless. It’s pointless dust extracting a cordless drill if your vacuum is connected to a mains outlet.
As Andrew Way says succinctly: “The technology has raced ahead of the legislation.”
CORDLESS GOES BLUETOOTH WIRELESS
With work safe best practice in mind Makita’s Jamie Teague can barely contain his zeal. “What I can tell you is, we are releasing a range of cordless dust extractors that will have Bluetooth tech. When you pull the trigger on your circular saw or your mitre saw, the vacuum will start up automatically.
“When you finish cutting, the vacuum will shut off. No plugs! It will wirelessly trigger your saw and wirelessly tell your vacuum to start dust extracting. This is on new tools which will be coming with an all new Bluetooth range and it’s one of the big announcements at our road show.
“We’re aware of containment and disposal too. I’ve seen workers vacuum up dust with a domestic machine and empty it into a bin which just blows the dust around the site again.”
WHY GAMBLE WITH YOUR HEALTH?
Kärcher is another major brand that carries a wide range of commercial & industrial grade dust extractors specifically designed for the construction industry.
full quote in here please to break up the text
Kärcher Country Manager Mike Roberts has a note of caution for anyone thinking any old vacuum cleaner is good enough.
He explains: “Commercial and industrial grade equipment is designed with the construction end user in mind. Typically, they’re more robust and have impact resistant casing, higher quality componentry and performance.
“These are purpose-built machines built for everyday use. It may be tempting for some to opt for domestic grade vacuum cleaners that are manufactured for more occasional use [but] they’re just not designed to withstand the harsher environments of a construction site. Domestic machines can also be limiting in terms of the accessories and filter grades they offer.”
As Accent Tools' Andrew Way puts it: “The bigger issue is that the trades are still using consumer vacuums – they may have HEPA filters but they are clearly not suitable for professional use. The correct dust extraction is not only related to the dust material, it’s whether the builder and vacuum is designed and fit for purpose.
“There are literally hundreds of different dusts including timber, cement, fibreglass, plastics cut on site, formica and dry wall. The guidelines supplied by your building materials manufacturer are the best place to look. They have to list their risk L, M or H (Low, Medium, High or Hazardous).”
DRYWALL ALREADY UP TO SPEED
What of the other trades – drywall for example – and dust extraction? When we ask Miles Suckling of Intex Group, he says most plasterers and painters are pretty much “up to speed”.
He explains: “The Worksafe dust extraction regulations are more focused on concrete, but because plasterers in particular are very visibly contributing to volumes of sanding, it’s a problem we’ve been aware of for some time. We’ve had the correct machines and training in place for some time.
“We supply dust extraction machines to those trades and the dry wall industry. Starmix are the main product we sell to those contractors. They’re sanding machines that are designed to be attached to dust extraction machines.
“Our customer base is primarily to Dulux, Resene and Valspar paint stores and the dry wall specialist stores like Trowel Trades. We do sell online direct but that would only account for 1% of our sales.”
Again, Miles Suckling shares the same frustration that all too often, “the trades are still using consumer vacuums that are clearly not suitable for professional use.”
HIRE COMPANIES GET SERIOUS ABOUT RETRO-FITTING
Bringing existing power tools “up to speed” with effective dust extraction was another area firmly on Worksafe’s radar including the major hire companies. With thousands of dust-creating power tools sitting on hire company shelves, retro-fitting has become a hot topic.
I spoke with Divun Delport from Youngman Richardson, specialists in supplying dust extractors to demolition companies and the hire industry.
He tells us: “Sales have certainly gone up in the last 12 months, due in part to Worksafe, who have made everyone more aware of how hazardous cutting concrete can be.
“If someone is seen dry cutting concrete that’s shut down immediately. The hire companies have jumped on board. We’re getting big orders from Kennards and Hirepool who have recently bought over 200 Hose 2 Gos to be retro-fitted with their existing drills, grinders and saws.
A Hose 2 Go is a portable, self-contained device that holds 14 litres of pressurised water.
Says Y&R’s Delport: “You connect it to the saw or drill and you get up to 30 minutes of uninterrupted water supply. It just uses a bladder system to create pressure.
"The two misters on top of the blade stop the dust. Water actually drips down on to the blade and the dust is collected as a slurry that you can empty afterwards.”
ARE HAND TOOL BRANDS DUST AWARE?
Do the tradies retro-fit hand tools for dust extraction? Do they even care? Whilst hand tools are incredibly important to the trades and by all accounts doing incredibly well, they are largely overlooked.
When I ask what Easy Access and its Ox Tools brand plan to put in place for dust extraction, Astrid Fisher tells us candidly: “You’ve raised a very good point. Extracting dust at source is not something we’ve seriously considered and because we’re all about safety it’s something we should be more aware of.
“We rely on trade feedback to develop our new products. We release a new product every month or so and getting from feedback to market can be very swift.”
A phone around of other major hand tool brands reveals that hand tools have a lot of catching up to do if we accept that the hand tool operator who creates dust usually wears a mask, hopefully with the right P-rated filter, but this still doesn’t impede dust from spreading to others on-site.
KNOW YOUR RISK & GET INVOLVED!
Worksafe’s Vadim Spice has created an inclusive culture. He tells me: “I’ve empowered my team. My inspectors will come out and talk to your team. Being invited in is less intrusive and reduces the anxiety. It works really well actually.”
The power tools brands are doing their part to educate the industry too.
As Andrew Way says: “We can have our dealers provide a solution to their customer that fits a particular problem.
"Say you’re cutting fibre cement three storeys up on scaffolding. We can provide that solution. Our place is to support and educate our dealers.”
If you’ve read this far, this magazine is helping with education around this issue.
Dust inhalation is a serious problem.
Make a difference.
Understand the risks – on a construction site everyone is affected.
As Andrew Way says, emphatically: “Ultimately be aware of all the pieces in the jigsaw and what you can do to fix it.”
Places to go & terms to know
The risks – Regularly breathing construction dust can cause diseases like lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and silicosis.
On-tool extraction is an effective control for dust and will minimise the risks to health.
Know your LEV – On-tool extraction is a type of local exhaust ventilation (LEV) system which is fitted directly onto the tool.
The system consists of several individual parts – the tool, captor hood, extraction unit, and hoses. Each part plays a role in establishing how effective the system is and the level of control it gives.
Manufacturers and suppliers will help you identify the correct LEV system suitable for the toxicity level and hazardous nature of the dust being extracted. Look on the product – or just ask.
Cordless tools? – Today there are many cordless tools with integrated filtered extraction devices. However, these units do not fall under the L, M, or H classification system, so their suitability should be checked with the manufacturer before using to extract hazardous dusts.
What is HEPA filtration? – HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance and is typically used in construction for filtering extremely hazardous materials like fine silica dust. The maximum permeation degree for an H class must be less than 0.005% for extracting very fine particulates. Check with your manufacturer that your dust extractor is fit for purpose.
Which mask is right? – From disposables to Breaking Bad: masks, or respiratory protectors, are defined by their filters:
Type “Worksafe Respiratory Protection” into your search browser and you’ll have a comprehensive 51 page guide to help you.
Get your copy of the Worksafe’s publication Controlling Construction Dust with on-tool Extraction here:
Get smart – get Starlock
SMART Tool Group is pleased to announce that, from 1 July, genuine Swiss made Starlock Multi-tool Blades will be available in New Zealand. SMART Tools have partnered with Starlock technology ensuring that all their distributors can access blades with the added benefit of SMART’s reputation and merchandising support. This includes the 32mm longlife timber blades and the 65mm wide blades as well as the TCT metal cutting blade. Available in single and 3-piece packets.
June also marks the release of SMART’s new high performance packaging designed to limit stock shrinkage. The clever design is functional, attractive at point-of-sale and informative for the customer, which in turn makes it easier for sales staff. Available in all the main trade outlets throughout New Zealand Smart offers all its customers, overnight freight-free service regardless of order size – now that’s SMART.
Get the chop
New to CE Lawford, Freund Professional axes are made in Germany and combine attractive ergonomic design with maximum functionality. The quality forged steel axe-head is inseparably moulded with the highly durable glass fiber composite handle for total security. The axe head is coated with Xylan – lubrication that penetrates and splits wood easier and more efficiently while the optimum balance of weight and shape will save you energy when working.
Universal hatchet 907 – Weighing in at 800g and 37cm in length, this hatchet is ideal for small volumes of wood, in the home or outdoor camping.
Universal axe 916 – The 916 weighs 1.9kg is 73cm long, is incredibly strong and virtually unbreakable. Ideal for chopping wood and making firewood.
Clearing axe & splitter 919 – The 919 is 1.7kg, 63cm long and doubles as a hammer weight so it’s ideal for moderate clearing, cutting wood and splitting bigger logs.
Clearing axe 926 – Also usable as a hammer weight for splitting logs, the Freund 926 weighs 2.5kg. At 73cm in length this robust axe is suitable for big tree trunks and difficult clearing operations.
Makita goes on the road to get “Ahead of the Game”
550 tradies braved the late afternoon cold to be at Makita’s “Ahead of the Game” Roadshow held at Auckland’s ASB Showgrounds on 11 May. Our very own Martin Griffiths was there and in his words he deemed it a “great success”.
Following a brief introduction and a short video presentation that took us from Makita’s heritage to the future of the brand, builders and other tradies dispersed around the eight demonstration areas for the main event – getting their hands on some serious kit!
All the tool demonstration displays enjoyed a brisk trade as tradies gathered in their dozens around each area. From brushless saws, self-drilling screws to the world’s largest 18V cordless range there was plenty to keep everyone buzzing.
New cordless models included a 10-inch 18v x 2 Mitre Saw, 18v x 2 Plunge Saw and a “world first” Rear Handle Cordless Circular Saw. Also on display was Makita’s Bluetooth Vacuum (see our main feature for more on this).
OX Tools mix it up!
OX Tools’ OX Pro MixM8 Paddles mean less strenuous mixing, just hold in the centre of the bucket and let the blades do all the work. In fact OX are so confident that this is the best mixing paddle ever – they offer a money back guarantee! The 10mm Shaft version is used with a standard cordless drill while the 14mm mixing paddle is ideal as a 2 handed mixer.
The OX Stainless Steel 8m Tape Measure, with remarkable 3m stand-out and cool-looking, large OX-shaped magnetic hook with easy access thumb lock is sure to measure up!
The OX PRO PVC Pipe Cutter (16-42mm) is an exceptionally sharp stainless steel blade with V Shape for immediate penetration that cuts through any MUPVC/PVC pipe effortlessly without kinking or shattering.
Finally, OX Tools’ new PRO Automatic Waterpump Pliers are made of tough chrome vanadium steel with double dipped handle for comfort and fast one hand size adjustment.