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Take control of construction dust

Improve working comfort, health, safety and productivity with Hilti Dust Removal Systems (DRS)

Breaking concrete dust
TE 60-A36 Cordless combihammer with hollow drill bit

Everyday construction jobs – such as grinding, cutting, drilling, breaking and chasing – all create hazardous dust which can negatively impact health and safety, as well as jobsite productivity. In addition, construction dust does not just stay confined to the jobsite, but can spread to other areas impacting people, nature and the environment.

Many of the harmful dust particles created are so tiny that they are barely visible, and the smaller they are the longer they take to settle. For example, a 0.1 micrometer dust particle can take more than 12 days to settle on the floor from a height of just one meter [1]. Often even when you can’t see construction dust, you can often still smell it – if you think a room smells “like concrete”, it's probably because of microscopic concrete dust particles circulating in the air.

Dust can pose a threat to Health and Safety

No-one in the construction industry wants to expose their employees to unnecessary hazards, but the longer a worker is exposed to crystalline silica, the greater the risks posed to their health.

Silica dust particles – found in concrete, tile, brick and mortar – can cause lung cancer and incurable silicosis even if only small amounts reach the lungs air sacks (alveoli) over a period of time. Exposure to silica dust particles may also cause and possibly worsen symptoms of asthma.

The Health and Safety Executive estimates that over 500 construction workers die from exposure to silica dust per year.[2] 

Why should I care about dust?

Dust can impact nearly every stage of the job

As well as reducing productivity through illness, sick leave, and even fatality, dust can impact nearly every stage of construction jobs:

  • Wasting time: sealing off areas before starting work
  • Damaging fixtures and fittings: such as carpets, furniture and other furnishings
  • Affecting other work: such as plastering, painting and electrics
  • Delaying handover: time-consuming clean-up work afterwards

Less noticeably, fine particles can also clog up tools by getting into motors and other working parts, which can lead to high repair costs and frustrating downtime. Dust particles also collect on sharp elements of inserts - such as chisel tips, drill bit edges and grinding disc surfaces - possibly making them blunt and shortening their life span.

As well as posing a threat to your team’s health and safety, silica dust can also impair working comfort by reducing visibility, causing coughs and sneezes, irritating eyes and clogging clothes, hair and mobile phones. Working to reduce exposure to hazardous dust not only makes working conditions better, but it also boosts productivity thanks to a more comfortable working environment.

How do you measure dust on the jobsite?

We know why it makes sense to minimise dust exposure on construction sites. But what exposure limits should you be aiming to avoid?

In the UK, there are official guidelines on exposure limits which you need to be aware of. Firstly, the HSE’s Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations define Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) for specific types of dust. The WEL for respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust is 0.1 mg per cubic meter averaged out over an 8-hour workday. Other respirable dusts are limited to 4 mg per cubic meter and other inhalable dusts to 10 mg per cubic meter, averaged out over the same time period [3]. The latter is roughly equivalent to only the weight of a 2 Euro Cent coin.

Similar standards are imposed across Europe, meaning that wherever you have construction projects within the EU, you have the challenge of ensuring your team’s dust exposure stays at low levels.

So how can you reduce construction dust inhalation? We recommend following the "STOP Principle" of Substitution, Technical, Organisational and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Substitution: Eliminate the risks of dust by using alternatives

Substitution of traditional methods to improve Health & Safety onsite

By substituting traditional methods with alternatives designed to minimise, and in some cases even eliminate dust exposure, the root cause of hazards can be avoided.

Alternative methods to reduce the impact of harmful silica onsite include:

Construction worker using a DD-WMS water management system to supply, filter and collect slurry from wet diamond drilling

Wet diamond drilling

Keep construction sites cleaner by collecting slurry created during wet diamond drilling. Units such as the DD-WMS water management system supply, filter and collect slurry for easy disposal while recycling the water in the process, to deliver a constant water supply. Rig-mounted diamond coring also carries very low Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) values, further reducing risk of injury.

DD-WMS 100 water management system
BX 3 battery-powered nailer, a virtually dust-free alternative to drilling, being used to fasten on concrete

Direct fastening

Make the switch to the BX 3 battery-powered nailer, designed to be a cleaner, quieter and virtually dust and vibration-free alternative to drilling.

BX 3 battery-powered nailer
HAC cast-in anchor channel, placed around rebar before the concrete is poured, meaning little or no dust from subsequent drilling

Designing out concrete dust

Choose low-dust base materials or place our HAC cast-in anchor channels around the rebar before the concrete is poured, meaning little to no drilling, and therefore no exposure to concrete dust.

HAC cast-in anchor channels

Technical: System solutions to reduce dust inhalation

Technical solutions to reduce harm from dust

Hilti has decades of experience in preventing, managing and removing construction dust. At our Dust Research Center in Kaufering, Germany our Dust Experts are part of a community actively developing and reporting on relevant standards like EN 50632.

Hilti power tools, accessories and inserts (such as drill bits, discs, blades or chisels), are designed as harmonised Dust Removal Systems (DRS) to maximise the amount of harmful dust removed at source and collect it efficiently with high-performance vacuum cleaners. This works in conjunction with our in-built technologies such as Active Vibration Reduction (AVR) and Active Torque Control (ATC) to minimise exposure to vibration and prevent wrist injury from kick-back.

Consequently, 95% of our power tools can contribute to virtually dust-free, and therefore, healthier construction sites.

How to make the business case for the quality tools that your team needs

Applications include:

TE 6-A22 cordless rotary hammer being used with an integrated dust removal system

Drilling

Remove up to 97% of dust with integrated dust removal systems like the TE-DRS, compatible with the our cordless rotary hammers.

Similarly, the TE-YD hollow drill bit – when used with SDS combihammers such as the TE 50-AVR and VC 40-M wet and dry vacuum cleaners – provides virtually dust-free concrete drilling.

TE-DRS dust removal system TE-YD hollow drill bit
TE 2000-AVR concrete demolition hammer being used with a dust removal system and vacuum cleaner for virtually dust-free chiseling / breaking

Chiselling

Remove up to 95% of dust when chiselling with tools like the TE 2000-AVR concrete demolition hammer, combined with the TE DRS-B dust management and a universal vacuum cleaner like the VC 20-UM Y.

TE DRS-B dust removal system How to work virtually dust-free with Hilti breakers
Wet concrete cutting helps to reduce dust on the jobsite with tools like the DCH 300-X diamond cutter

Slitting

Wet concrete cutting using the DCH 300-X diamond cutter can be up to 30% faster than dry cutting.

If you prefer the convenience of dry cutting, the tool is virtually dust-free when used together with a vacuum cleaner such as the VC 60M-X.

DCH 300-X diamond cutter
Dust extraction is easier than ever with the SC 70W-A22 connected to a universal vacuum cleaner

Cutting

Dust extraction when cutting with cordless circular saws like the Hilti SCW 22-A or SC 70W-A22 is easier than ever – just connect a universal vacuum cleaner, such as the VC 20-UM. 

SCW 22-A Cordless circular saw SC 70W-A22 Cordless circular saw
For virtually dust-free results combine tools like the DG 150 concrete grinder with a vacuum cleaner

Grinding

Virtually dust-free results: when you combine tools such as the DG 150 concrete grinder with a VC 40-UM vacuum cleaner.

DG 150 Concrete grinder
Image of all the full portfolio of Hilti vacuum cleaners being used on the construction site

Vacuum cleaning

Hilti vacuum cleaners are powerful, highly efficient, and designed to withstand the harshest construction site conditions.

In addition, automatic filter cleaning technology briefly reverses the flow of air inside the system every 15 seconds, to prevent dust build-up on the filter, and keep suction high.

Hilti VC Vacuum cleaners

Dust classes and vacuum cleaner selection

Choosing the right dust classification for your application

When dealing with construction materials that generate large quantities of often hazardous dust, your main priority should be protecting your and your worker's health. To prevent dust exposure, vacuum cleaners are essential and in order for them to be effective, you need to make sure you have the right vacuum cleaner to match your application. Vacuum cleaners are categorised into different dust extraction classes. Each dust extraction class is defined by the occupational exposure limit and the level of risk to the user, e.g. L for low risk, M for medium risk and H for high risk applications.

 

L Class (low risk)

L Class dust includes house dust, soft woods, and solid surface material. 

The maximum allowable concentration of L class dust is > 1 mg/m³, this means the vacuum cleaner has to extract 99% of the dust. 

L Class vacuum cleaners

M Class (medium risk)

Dust from hard woods, cement, concrete and tile cement as well as paints belong to the M class.

The maximum allowable concentration of M class dust is > 1 mg/m³, this means 99.9% of the dust has to be extracted. 

M Class vacuum cleaners

H class (high risk)

Typical H Class dust can be found in asbestos, mineral fibres, bitumen and artificial fibres such as glass wool. 

The maximum allowable concentration of H class dust is >0.1 mg/m3, this means 99.995% of the dust has to be extracted. 

H Class vacuum cleaners

Wet dust suppression for petrol saws

Continuous pressure and water supply with the self-priming DSH-P water pump

Whether you are cutting into concrete or masonry, diamond sawing is a dusty business.

That's why we've developed the new DSH-P water pump which delivers continuous water pressure for effective dust suppression. What's more, it works with virtually any water source, even a simple bucket of water, so you don't need to trail hoses across site or manually pump a water bottle to keep the flow of water to the saw.

DSH-P water pump dust suppression on the Hilti DSH 600-X petrol saw

Organisational: measures to reduce dust exposure

Organizational measures to reduce dust exposure

The third stage of the "STOP principle" is to find and put in place organisational measures that help minimise dust exposure.

One practical method is job rotation, switching teams between dusty tasks, and thereby reduce exposure times for each employee. Similarly, many in the construction industry have introduced the ‘Ban the Broom’ initiative, meaning construction dust is vacuumed rather than brushed into the air.

Thirdly, construction workers at all levels should be informed regularly about the dangers through industry training, to help minimise dust exposure. To help you with this, impartial advice and guidance is available from the UK Construction Dust Partnership [4] and the Health and Safety Executive’s Dust hub [5]. 

Need help identifying opportunities to minimise risk onsite and support with training your team on safe working practices? Why not speak to one of our expert Account Managers who offer guidance, advice and practical tool box talks onsite. 

Personal protective equipment

Personal Protective Equipment in the stop principle

Lastly, it’s important for tradespeople to use relevant personal protective equipment (PPE). Dust masks, eye protection, hard hats, ear protection, disposable overalls and gloves are all essential kit, even when using virtually dust-free tools. In conditions where levels of silica particles are unavoidably high, respirators may be necessary for maximum protection against dust inhalation.

Tools that reduce exposure to hand arm vibration

Hand arm vibration

Solutions to minimise and even eliminate exposure to vibration, reducing the risk of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).

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