Silica 101: Tool Innovation and Compliance

Words: Innovation has played a huge role in the settlement of our country and in how well we live, work and play. More than a century ago, westward expansion was improved with the Conestoga wagon, steamship and railroad. Farmer productivity soared with John Deere's singing plow and Cyrus McCormick's mechanical reaper. The Industrial Revolution brought innovation to machines for quarrying and cutting stone. There are those who say the concrete masonry unit (CMU) revitalized the industry, and productivity and safety have been enhanced with advancements in mortar, saw blades, ergonomic design, protective gear and cordless tools. Steve Jobs once quipped: "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower," and it is just as appropriate an observation in the world of masonry and building construction as that of smartphones, animation and personal computing. Jobs himself never invented anything, but he was a visionary beyond measure. While OSHA's Silica Ruling may have propelled tool manufacturers and others serving the masonry industry to address the presence of silica dust on the jobsite in a new, more comprehensive way, many of them have been prominent leaders for decades or even more than a century in meeting marketplace demands for tools and systems which are lighter, safer and faster. "Since Milwaukee Tool was established in 1924, it has led the industry in both durability and performance," relates Product Manager Kevin Gee. "With an unwavering commitment to the trades, we continue to lead with a focus on providing innovative, trade-specific solutions. Whether through our leadership in lithium-ion technology, as seen in the M12™ and M18™ systems, time-saving accessories or innovative hand tool products, Milwaukee is dedicated to delivering a steady stream of advanced solutions that offers increased productivity and unmatched durability." Benjamin Kruse, Marketing Manager for CDClarue, based in Oklahoma, points to the Pulse-Bac patented self-cleaning vacuum as the ultimate system for dust collection. "We had the solution before the regulation," he says. "Our advanced technology has put us ahead of the curve on this issue, and original units from 15 years ago would comply with requirements found on Table 1." Kruse points out the challenge of dealing with a clogged vacuum filter and how dealing with it can take up valuable time and create a mess. "Pulse-Bac solves this problem with our patented Automatic Pulse-Clean Technology™ that automatically cleans the filter while you work. Others may claim to have 'automatic' or 'pulse' filter cleaning, but look closely, and you’ll see that they fall short of the original, requiring extra equipment like air compressors or manual gadgets that require work to stop for filter cleaning. These don’t truly solve the problem." “SPEC MIX was born and raised in the masonry business,” Brian Carney VP of SPEC MIX confirms. “Since our inception in 1989 our mission remained constant: create, package and deliver products that provide designers with endless artistic options, engineers with proven structural integrity, and craftsmen with exceptional performance. We know that technology and innovation are critical to the growth and strength of the masonry industry. When the vision of an architect partners with the skill of a craftsman, buildings of timeless beauty and durability are the end result. Our products eliminate onsite mixing, inconsistency and inefficiency. Our goal is to raise the quality standards needed to advance the construction materials industry.” Long-Term Optimism The first Husqvarna plant was established in Sweden in 1689, a full century before George Washington was inaugurated as our first president. "The existence of crystalline silica and [associated] hazards has been known for a long time," explains Mark Michaels, Director of Product Management - Equipment, Americas. "Husqvarna Construction Products has been developing solutions to control dust for decades. The company is currently testing a new dust hood for its MS 360 masonry saw to adapt to dry cutting. The dust port will connect directly to the saw cart and be adjustable for different material sizes. A vacuum with 250 cfm or more and a HEPA filter will be recommended to remove dust at the source." "OSHA’s final ruling on crystalline silica exposure defines the amount of dust permissible," Michaels continues, "which gives contractors and manufacturers more defined numbers to work toward. Many contractors are already using water and vacuum solutions supplied by Husqvarna and other equipment manufacturers, but will still have to implement the administrative requirements of having a written exposure control plan, testing, record keeping and such." Therein lies much of the disgruntlement with the ruling — copious plans and paperwork. Some industry insiders feel that research was incomplete, and no one crafting the details of the regulation listened to construction industry experts or considered the negative impact. "Instead of focusing on exactly where silica is present, the rule is written more like a blanket rule that if monitored correctly would ban people from being on the beach on a windy day due to the dust off the sand," states EZG Manufacturing's CEO Damian Lang. "Although costly to contractors, the industry will survive by learning new means and methods of building structures." Thus, the innovation angle which EZG has incorporated into its Mud Hog mixers. "A laborer can put silo mix into the mixer through one port, add water through another one and mix it under a solid cover, reducing dust by 85%. Customers do not need to buy an entire mixer," he continues. "The new solid grate is interchangeable with the standard grate on older models." The long-term approach on the growth of the masonry industry is expressed by several industry professionals. "We understand this will have a major financial impact on the industry, but believe these new rules are necessary to recruit the next generation of masons," says David Pellegrine, National Sales Manager for the Australian-based ArbortechTM. "Society has grown more health conscious, and this is another step in that direction not only to make workers safer but also the communities where they work." ArbortechTM 's innovative restoration saw, the AS170, provides users the ability to cut mortar with minimal dust. "This model can cut square, cut deep and cut with precision, making it ideal for heritage work from tuckpointing to toothing brickwork," he adds. As a manufacturing pioneer with more than a century’s worth of experience, the Bosch name has become synonymous with engineering excellence. Its products for the masonry industry are designed to cut, drill, scrape, rough, demolish or grind common building materials like mortar, stone, tile, brick and block. "Our products extend from grinders, rotary hammers and breaker hammers to OSHA-compliant dust protection that includes HEPA-filter dust extractors and shrouds, hoses and other dust control attachments they support," declares Steve Wilcox, Tool Brand Manager. "All Bosch products and services are designed for hard working trade professionals who rely on power tools to make a living. Bosch PRO+GUARD™ dust solutions allow masonry professionals to move toward greater safety, compliance and increased productivity." Dust Collection A leader in innovative dust-collection technology, iQ Power Tools has been propelled to the forefront of the construction industry by developing the iQ360x, the world’s first and only masonry saw with a fully integrated vacuum system, filter system, and dust containment. iQ Power Tools, based in Moreno Valley, CA, was founded by Joel Guth and Paul Guth, third generation masons who were creating tools to deal with dust problems on their own jobsites. They have owned masonry companies with more than 100 employees and have experienced firsthand the issues related to jobsite dust. "Dust makes a huge mess, costs a great deal of money and is a threat to worker health and our industry," says Joel Guth, President. They have operated masonry companies with more than 100 employees and experienced all the dusty issues up close and personal. Company goals include:
  • 100% dust free concrete and masonry cutting
  • Safer job sites
  • Healthier work practices
  • A more sustainable construction industry.
iQ’s core purpose is to design and build tools that save lives. Every iQ Tool is designed with the goal of capturing up to 99.5% of harmful silica dust generated when cutting. “It eliminates the hazard and the water run-off," Guth continues. With the new OSHA ruling on silica exposure impending, contractor compliance is a hot button in the construction industry. iQ is one of the only manufacturers to have test data of their tools demonstrating compliance with the new silica standard. "This ruling long term will be a benefit by attracting more people to the mason trade for having healthy, safe environments," Joel adds. iQ Power Tools is continually compelled to create innovative dust-collection technology to enhance health and safety for masons and all construction workers everywhere. The U.S.S. Constitution, with its wooden hull and three masts, is the world's oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat. She was launched in 1797 and retired from active service in 1881. She sailed under her own power in 1997 to commemorate her 200th birthday and again in 2012 for the 200th celebration of her victory over Guerriere in the War of 1812 where she earned the nickname "Old Ironsides." It is with obvious pride that DEWALT notes its tools were used by professional contractors for recent updates as the ship undergoes repairs in dry dock. "In the surfacing/cutting/tuckpointing space, we offer shrouds for dust collection to meet all three applications," explains DEWALT's Product Manager, Nate Pellerin. "In the drilling space, we offer multiple shroud options that meet drilling, chiseling and pavement breaking applications. In addition to the shrouds supplied for drilling, we also offer our new Hollow Bits™ that allow each user to collect dust from the bottom of the hole as he or she is drilling. Dust is pulled through the hollow center of the bit and into the attached dust extractor collecting the dust." Innovation and high quality are synonymous with CS Unitec's power tools. In 1991, the company invented the first pneumatic portable band saw and continues to add to its list of industry firsts with the widest range of portable magnetic drills and hand-held concrete core drills. The company has been promoting dust collection power tools and vacuum systems for more than 10 years. "CS Unitec is positioned to tackle the silica rule by offering compliant systems, not just tools," says Thomas Carroll, President. "Our tools work dust free to comply with OSHA’s new silica regulation when used with a qualified HEPA vacuum. For example, our concrete grinders connect directly into our dust extractor vacuum and grind faster compared to competitive products while operating dust-free. For dust-free mixing of concrete and mortars, combine our dust extractor vacuum with the portable Twinmix 1800." The family-owned company Hilti Corporation is headquartered in Liechtenstein and enjoys a presence with some 20,000 employees in 120 countries. The corporate culture is grounded in teamwork, integrity, courage and commitment. "Hilti dust control systems are designed to deliver optimal performance while controlling dust particles that would otherwise wear down and reduce the working life of the insert, like drill bit, diamond blade or grinding wheel, and potentially put workers at risk of silica-related illnesses," states Product Manager James Walsh. Hilti offers a hollow drill bit and vacuum solution, called SafeSet™ to eliminate the need for tedious manual hole-cleaning steps. Additionally, Hilti is a leader in the market for demolition hammers. "Its full lineup of shrouds for its SDS-max and demolition hammers, when hooked up to a Hilti vacuum, are all OSHA 1926.1153 Table 1 compliant," Walsh continues. "Our flagship TE 3000-AVR demolition hammer now features the TE DRS 3000 for dust collection in compliance with Table 1 Section x (jackhammering) of the 1926.1153 silica dust standards." Angle grinders, gas-powered demolition saws, vacuums, self-cleaning filters, core drills and other tools and accessories address dust containment and removal as well as efficiency and productivity. Designing machines with both function and ergonomics in mind, Pullman Ermator considers itself a partner to industry and craftsmen. "Concrete contractors can find solutions on every page of our catalog," states North American Sales Manager Lyndon Kelsey. "We have developed our product offering to keep in compliance when cutting wet or dry, grinding, polishing, blasting and general housekeeping. All of our dust collectors come equipped with our HEPA filters rated at 99.99% efficiency at 0.3 micron, Jet Pulse filter cleaning as well as Longopac bagging, commercial hose and stainless steel vac wand and floor tool." The Pullman Ermator dust collectors are designed to give maximum performance with a minimum footprint on a scaffold or swing stage. "All our dust collection solutions enhance productivity as they keep the front line workers safe and in compliance with the OSHA silica update," adds Dave Sharamitaro, Midwest Rep. "Like the Dust Boot for tuck pointing, Dust Bug for drilling, and the Dust Boot for chipping, we are constantly working to develop new products and accessories and listening to the industry for ideas and needs for new solutions." Personal Gear Founded as a small mining company in 1902, 3M has grown into a global conglomerate with 90,000 employees in 70 countries. A unique spirit of innovation and collaboration forms the foundation of the firm, and its R&D teams continually seek new solutions. According to Don Garvey, CIH, CSP, Construction Industrial Hygienist, consolidating personal protective items is a novel recent development. "A lot of the times with silica, you have to wear a hardhat, eye and face protection, respiratory protection and hearing protection — all things that meet either ANSI requirements or NIOSh design requirements. But none of them necessarily is made to work together. Eye protection interferes with the hearing protection, and the hearing may affect the hard hat, which can affect the respirator, and that could affect the eyewear. One of 3M's responses to this dilemma is a line of powered air respirators. "These integrate the hard hat with hearing, eye, face and respiratory protection," Garvey continues. "There are several of them, the TR300 is one of our powered air respirators that can be combined with our M series hard hats. The TR600 can be combined with M series hard hats and that can then be integrated with hearing protection and glasses." Industry Leaders All of these companies and more embrace innovation from the ivory towers, boardrooms and R&D labs to construction planning meetings and jobsites large and small. Tools and equipment are tested all the time in real-life applications by real-life masons for real-life feedback on usage, handling, speed, dust containment, power and other characteristics that impact job productivity and worker safety. With these corporations exhibiting leadership and driving innovation, the future of the masonry industry just might be as solid as a rock. SIDEBAR: Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way. - Tom Freston, entertainment industry executive  
Joanne M. Anderson is a freelance writer and magazine editor with more than 1,000 articles and blogs in print. She especially enjoys home improvement and building topics.
Words: Joanne M. Anderson Photos: Amerimix, Arbortech, Bosch, CS Unitec, EZG, DeWalt, HILTI, Husqvarna, iQ Power Tools, Milwaukee Tools, Pullman Ermator, Pulse bac, SPEC MIX
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