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Making the flooring industry a safer place

08 December 2022

THE USE of heavy-duty machinery when floor grinding, cutting, or drilling creates and encourages the spread of hazardous dust, which presents significant health and safety issues for contractors on the job.

Floor grinding, for instance, represents one of the most challenging applications for source extraction. The grinding discs used on floor grinders are highly abrasive and generate large quantities of fine dust. In fact, up to 100 litres of respirable crystalline silica dust can be generated every hour, which can cause serious damage to the health of those who inhale the fine particles – which cannot be seen by the naked eye and can be easily inhaled.

Being exposed to and breathing in such high levels of fine dust can lead to widespread occupational lung diseases such as pneumoconiosis, while also increasing the chance of developing other dust-related diseases such as cancer, asthma, allergic alveolitis and irritation, as well as a whole range of non-respiratory illnesses. Overexposure to dust for a prolonged period of time can even cause permanent disabilities and death.

It is therefore essential that efficient measures are put in place to ensure the protection of contractors and the quality of their products, while adhering to the relevant health and safety regulations.

Every contractor working in flooring must follow the regulations set out in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002, which highlights the Workplace Exposure Limits (WEL).

The WEL requirement is split into two parts, with the first referring to inhalable dust, which is regarded as entire dust particles that can enter the nose or mouth. The second refers to respirable dust, which are the fine dust particles invisible to the naked eye. They offer differing limits, with the inhalable dust limit set at 10mg.m3 and the respirable limit at 4mg.m3.

These limits are legally binding, and businesses must ensure that they abide by the limits contained in the act, with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advising businesses on how to best manage the problems caused by excess dust. Its Construction Information Sheets 36 and 69 outline the necessary steps to take when it comes to on-tool dust extraction; the most efficient form of dust prevention for those working in the flooring industry.

This is achieved through equipment that are cyclone based, HEPA 13 filtered and built to Application Class H as standard for a no compromise approach to performance and dust containment.

There are powerful single-phase dust extractors on the market, for example, that have been designed to meet modern safety requirements and to work in conjunction with tools that have become ever more efficient on today's construction sites. The maximum airflow on these types of equipment can be as high as 400 m3/h, which is more than enough capacity for floor grinders with a working width of 500 mm and large electric cut-off saws. They are also easy to transport around construction sites, move in stairwells, and lift into tight spaces, while the wheels are often puncture-proof and lockable for working on uneven ground. In addition, bag replacement on single-phase dust extractors is easy, and their HEPA H13 filter offers optimum quality, containment, and performance.

There are also three-phase turbo motor units that are built specifically to enable running for long periods without the need to switch off. Some models have been developed with thermal protectors that activate at high temperatures and simpler filter changes to offer easier and quicker removal.

Also available are pre-separator equipment that are ideal for floor grinding and semi-mobile systems where large quantities of dust are handled. The pre-separator reduces the strain on the extraction source and is equipped with a container/bag solution for dust-free bag replacement, therefore allowing the user to avoid unnecessary and time-consuming shutdowns.

Further equipment suited to the wood flooring trade are mobile pre-separators that have been specifically designed to deal with large quantities of dust. These units have large inlets that make them particularly suitable for coarser dust – removing up to 90 per cent. This considerably reduces the load on the dust extractor, while the operator doesn't have to empty the canister too frequently.

In addition, businesses can also acquire mobile dust extractors built on a robust and sturdy steel chassis for maximum durability. These powerful dust extractors can provide sufficient air flow for several users at the same time and can also be used as semi-mobile central units in a tubing system. Furthermore, they can come with a tiltable cyclone for ergonomic filter replacement and be suitable for source extraction for grinding discs up to approx. 800 mm/ 31" in diameter. They are ideal for continuous operation, conveying heavy material away, source extraction, and cleaning.

Those operating in the flooring industry can also use complementary single-phase air cleaners, which can have a capacity of 1800m3/hr. Most units comprise an energy saving ECO-fan, a pre-filter, a HEPA H13 microfilter of 10m2, a filter indication lamp, and variable speed transmission to save energy consumption. These powerful air cleaners also have the capability to clean air from hazardous particles as small as 0.3 micrometres, including both silica dusts and airborne viruses.

This is achieved through regularly cleaning the air to reduce the spread of particulate, making the machine a favourite for construction site work areas, as well as in their receptions, canteens, and changing facilities in light of the more recent Covid-19 situation.

Cleaned air can also be recirculated back into the room or exhausted via a hose to create a
negative pressure environment. Most air cleaners also have an ergonomic design, making them easy to carry and transport. Ultimately, air cleaners are an ideal complement to source extraction on construction sites and in high pedestrian traffic areas, where air can be constantly cleaned and recirculated.

Marking 50 years of experience in developing dust extraction solutions to fit client requirements in the construction industry, Dustcontrol UK remains committed to making work environments cleaner and therefore safer. All of its machines are manufactured to application Class H standard with a pre-filter and HEPA 13 filter to cover a wide range of applications, ensuring healthier, cleaner workspaces for those operating in the flooring industry.