On September 23, 2017 the United States Government levied a new set of rules on the construction industry. The rules state that individuals cannot be exposed to silica dust in the air over 250 micrograms per cubic meters per eight hour day. That is reduced from 50 micrograms issued in 1971.
What is silica dust? Silica dust is in most of the products we use in the tile business. Thin set, cement board, cement (in general) natural stone…It all emits silica dust during the cutting or grinding process. If a person breathes in silica dust it can lead to lung cancer, kidney disease and pulmonary disease. ‘Black lung’ is a condition that coal miners get and is similar to silicosis.
So this is some pretty serious stuff. Have you ever thought Tile work could kill a person? We at Hamilton Tile have been aware that this is coming down the pike for some time and we’ve been preparing. No one here wants to get sick from doing our trade but that is the deathly reality of working in construction today.
Not too long ago we were working in a showroom doing tile work with a few other crews and it really was a microcosm of what makes us different from them. While we were cutting dust free on our ‘score and snap’ cutters, another crew of guys (with complete contempt for themselves and everyone else’s health) were cutting tile inside with dry hand grinders throwing dust into the air. I was so frustrated I had to tell them to stop and they looked at me with a blank stare. A fine example of conscientious professional tile installers and the basic builder grade laborers.
Now today if they were to do that, and an inspector or OSHA rep were to walk on the site that company would be looking at a $12,675 fine for the first offense as a punishment for endangering everyone’s health. Repeated violations would be $127,000!
To me this is also a sign that cement board will be leaving the market very soon. There is no possible way you can cut cement board without some amount of dust coming off of it and 250 micrograms of dust is NOTHING! Most companies will be in violation if they are cement board users.
A tile guy who cares about his health and hopes to live a long life and be in the business for an extended period will be like us and move to foam boards and membranes. We have also taken other steps:
This vacuum is $300 on Amazon and it is an OSHA compliant Hepa vacuum. That Rigid vacuum that we once utilized and that EVERYONE seems to be using, is NOT compliant with the new rules and does not collect small micro particles of dangerous, deadly dust. This vacuum has dual, self cleaning filters and is EPA certified. Yes, it is more of an investment but our customers deserve to have people who care working for them and this Is a start. It's not only our health, it's your health TOO!
That blue piece that is on the edge of our mixing bucket is what they call a "whales tail" It sucks the dust plume out of the bucket and into the vac when you're mixing mortar. I watch many mix mortar and when they put the thin set in the bucket they get an immediate blast of deadly silica dust to the face. Using the 'whales tail' in combination with the HEPA vacuum collects most of the dust.
This is a dust deputy which adds another layer to the dust collection process. Before the dust goes into the vacuum it is collected by the dust deputy and helps the filters see less dust which in turns lengthens the life of the filter.
Here I am, clean shaven, with an OSHA compliant respirator that I wear regularly. It makes a TIGHT bond around my face and cartridges are changed regularly. I see a lot of paper masks in the field, you know the ones, they sit loosely on the face and do not make a tight bond. THESE DO NOT WORK! They add very little protection and are one SMALL step above the old bandanna technique!
Then we add DUST SHROUDS for our grinders as another layer of protection.
Now, the federal government has really added another cost to doing business but ultimately it will drive people to protect themselves. When you get a bid for a job be sure you're comparing apples to apples. We are not perfect but we attempt to comply with federal law and protect ourselves at the same time. We're in this for the long haul.
When our bid is much higher then the other outfit, our company being in compliance with OSHA's silica dust standards is one reason why.
Imagine the added cost of all the extra tools, whenever someone is working with dust having someone else collect the dust in a vacuum, the discomfort of masks, and the skill involved in dust remediation.
I'll dare to say if the company you chose over us is throwing dust into the air and OSHA or an inspector comes to the site and levies a fine, it will be unlikely they will finish the job. Not to mention it is not only unhealthy for them, It is unhealthy for you and your family, neighbors and pets.
I will continue to state that our mission statement is to put a new face on the construction industry through conscientious attitudes, long term, lasting quality projects and direct communication with highly skilled, intelligent workers. Following basic federal guidelines is part of the mission statement because it proves we are in it for more than the now and that we really are striving to separate ourselves from the pack!