Silicon dioxide or silica is a chemical compound found in materials that are used regularly in the construction industry, including sandstone, granite, brick and concrete. In the workplace, these materials create dust when they are cut, sanded and carved. When fine enough, this dust can be inhaled, causing health problems, such as silicosis or bronchitis.
The quantity of silica contained in most materials can be estimated within 20 per cent. Sandstone has silica content between 70 and 90 per cent and there is between 30 and 45 per cent silicon dioxide in tile. However, in concrete, the silica content can be anywhere between 25 and 70 per cent, so it is difficult to estimate what protection measures are necessary for each job.
Using the correct dust collector is the easiest way to mitigate the dangers of silica dust. From grinding concrete to surface polishing, construction workers need to be aware that they will be creating silica dust, even if the particles are too small for the naked eye to see.
Dust collectors with a one-filter system aren't thorough enough to gather the finer particles that can pass through the respiratory system and cause health problems. When there is a risk of silica dust inhalation, look for a dust collector with an individually tested High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter and a high minimum efficiency. National Flooring Equipment's range of dust collectors boasts a 99.995 per cent minimum efficiency rating at 0.14 microns.
The bagging system is also an extremely important component. If the silica dust becomes airborne when the user changes the vacuum bag, the work that the filters have done previously is wasted. Dust collectors should come equipped with a continuous bag, which can be cut from the machine and disposed of without being unsealed.