Waiting for the Dust to Settle
The proposed OSHA silica standard not only drastically affects mason contractors and other hard-working industries, but also the companies that manufacture the tools and equipment used.
At press time for [the Febraury 2004 issue of Masonry], we are still waiting on the final verdict concerning the silica standard proposed by OSHA several months ago. Although no one doubts the need to protect workers against the dust byproduct of drilling and sawing, the absurd measures that OSHA has planned puts mason contractors and other industries in jeopardy if passed. Not only that, manufacturers of drills, saws and other equipment are affected by these potential changes as well.
Masonry recently spoke to Multiquip's Jeff Arnswald, General Manager, Boise Operations and Manager of Engineering, on how these possible changes might affect their industry.
Masonry: What are your overall thoughts about the proposed OSHA silica standard?
Arnswald: Not to make light of safety issues, but this standard needs to go away.
Masonry: That's pretty much how everyone is feeling about it.
Arnswald: If the standard goes through, as is, it will have a large impact on the products that we provide, masonry and concrete saws, and the users of the products. We will have to address it by either recommending more people to wet-cut versus dry-cut, and/or designing and building vacuum systems to be utilized on the machines.
We've already seen several manufacturers come out with vacuum attachments for their saws. There will be a mix of those who will rely on third-party vacuum attachments, while others will design their own systems. In either case it will be an expensive proposition.
Masonry: If this standard passes, what are some potential problems that you see in the field?
Arnswald: Oftentimes, masons use a hand-held cut-off saw to cut the brick or block rather than going through the process of having a crewmember on the ground making cuts with a table saw and then having to pass the materials up. There will obviously need to be a change in this process since this is generally done dry.
Masonry: Aren't most masons using wet cutting already?
Arnswald: It's 50/50 between wet and dry cutting.
Masonry: It seems as if OSHA has based their reasoning on dry cutting. How does wet cutting fit into the scenario?
Arnswald: Under the proposed standard, wet cutting is a method that can be used for controlling air-borne crystalline silica. A respirator is still required and the problem does not end by just wet cutting. The slurry that is generated must also be dealt with. If allowed to dry, the resultant fines must be handled according to the standard.
Masonry: Has Multiquip, or any other manufacturer that you know of, completed any studies on cutting masonry, the silica dust produced or silicosis?
Arnswald: We have done studies regarding the cutting of masonry products, but have not done any studies in regards to the silica dust.
Masonry: What type of instruction does Multiquip give to purchasers of brick and block saws?
Arnswald: Through being a member of the Saw Manufacturers Institute, which is part of AEM (the Association of Equipment Manufacturers), the industry has developed standard warning pamphlets that are packaged with the machines and decals that are applied directly on the machines. These pamphlets and decals cover the safe operation of the machines and advise the operators of the equipment as to what protective equipment they should be using, such as safety glasses, gloves and respirators.
Masonry would like to thank Multiquip, Inc., and Jeff Arnswald for their interest and participation in this discussion.
About the Author
Jennie Farnsworth is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and editor. She is a former editor of Masonry magazine.