Things your sales staff needs to know about the OSHA silica dust regulation

It could provide additional sales and rental opportunities.

The OSHA regulation outlining requirements for exposure to respirable silica dust has been in place for months. But not every organization has taken the steps necessary to meet the guidelines. This is a reminder that every company that works with concrete, stone or other masonry materials must meet the OSHA requirements.

As a rental center, it may also present additional sales and rental opportunities, but your sales and counter staff needs to be familiar with the regulation’s requirements to better help your customers comply with the standard.

Jim Bohn, director, Strategic Development at the Robert Bosch Tool Corporation outlines several common questions he hears when working with professionals learning about the new standard. Have your staff read – and understand—them so they can leverage that information in their sales and rental conversations.

What if you’re working in a small area where the dust suction attachment won’t fit?
Dust exposure, regardless of the environment, must be controlled. If you’re in an environment where your power tool system is too big, then Table 1 will not be applicable and Paragraph D will take effect. This will require a company to conduct independent testing, with specific documentation on exposure levels and what steps a worker must take to stay below the PEL (0.5mg/m3: 50 micrograms per cubic meter) over a time-weighted eight-hour day. 

Can tools from one brand and an attachment from a different brand be used to meet the standard?
Most tool brands have attachments that fit their tool(s) due to specific design elements of the tools (think rotary hammer tube size variations, collar configuration on a grinder). Most attachments are brand specific. The exceptions are dust suction drilling attachments and universal collar dust shrouds.

Can a dust extractor (vacuum) from one brand be used with another brand of tools and attachments?
Yes, but you do need to be sure that three requirements are met:
1) Minimum of 25 cfm per one inch of grinder wheel
2) Filter cleaning system (automatic or semi-automatic)
3) Use a 99 percent filtration filter (HEPA is preferred).

A branded tool system may require additional tools or equipment. – refer to the appropriate Owners Manuall.

What is the proper disposal procedure for concrete dust?
Every user who creates respirable silica dust has the responsibility to collect that dust and then dispose it correctly. It’s highly recommended to use a fleece bag. These are usually multi-ply fabric bags that help manage air equilibrium and collect .3 microns or larger dust particles. It also contains a port-closing mechanism for containment after removing the bag from the vacuum canister’s port.

The bag must be strong enough to withstand weight of dust collected and is not subject to tearing.

Will there be a special place for users to dispose of a full dust collection bag separate from a regular dumpster?
When the bag is 80 percent full, place it in a standard garbage dumpster. Be careful that it’s not going to be exposed to potential damage if other items are placed in the same dumpster on top of it. The bag must not break open at any time.

Are HEPA filers required in Table 1?
High-efficiency PAticulate Arrestance (HEPA) filters are not required. The OSHA Silica Dust Regulation – Table 1 states that a filter needs to have 99 percent filtration to meet the guideline.

Many non-HEPA filters meet this standard, but may not withstand the frequency of dust extractor filter cleaning that’s required due to fineness of silica dust clogging the filter (if not cleaned often).

Bosch recommends using a HEPA-rated filter so OSHA agents know its filtration is rated 99 percent effective. It offers greater durability when compared with a standard filter and saves money in the long term..     

Is there a limit for length of a vacuum hose?
Bosch dust extractors can be used with either a 10-foot hose, which comes with the unit or with a 16-foot hose that is sold separately. Beyond 16 feet, the expected efficiency of the dust extractor decreases greatly. Users may have dust control performance issues beyond 16 feet.

What about job site dust from surrounding work areas? How can this be distinguished from cutting/grinding operations?
Dust generated in and around the job site must be compliant with the established control plan for that site. Anything that produces a level of dust that exceeds the dust control plan should be reported immediately. It doesn’t matter who creates the dust, everyone must be safe from exposure.

Editor's note: Jim Bohn is director, strategic development – North America for Robert Bosch Tool Corporation.  He is responsible for driving the creation and rollout of Bosch power tool products in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, he assists the company’s sales organization in providing the products, services and training programs to meet the needs of construction professionals.