Killer Concrete Dust, OSHA Silica Standard & Bosch Speed Clean Drill Bits

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What's This?This post is sponsored by The Home Depot. If you’ve been around job sites much, you can probably recall seeing someone grinding or cutting concrete while creating an enormous plume of dust in the process. To make that scenario even worse, if you’re also on that jobsite, you might be sucking in that same dust cloud unless the breeze happens to be favoring you. Unfortunately, concrete dust typically contains crystalline silica (aka quartz), which – when inhaled – can damage your lungs. With enough exposure, silicosis or even lung cancer can result. Not to be Debbie Downer, but silicosis can cause major lung damage and even death. On that chipper note, let’s dive into why this topic is getting so much attention right now (hint: OSHA Silica Dust Regulations), what you can do to protect yourself, some key points to know if you’re an employer of workers exposed to silica, and how Bosch is rolling out numerous solutions to drastically reduce silica exposure – including their innovative Speed Clean Dust Extraction Drill Bits.

According to the American Lung Association, about 2 million US workers remain potentially exposed to occupational silica. The good news is that harmful exposure is 100% preventable. Simply skip work any day you might be drilling, chipping or grinding concrete! Or, in an effort to not get fired, you could simply use OSHA Silica Standard Compliant practices. As someone who has been around tools and construction for some time, I have to admit I wasn’t aware that crystalline silica is a known carcinogen – it was listed as such by the World Health Organization (WHO) back in 1996! While we like to keep things light and fun here at Home Fixated, Silicosis doesn’t really lend itself to that. To get a sense of the gravity of the issue, it’s worth a few minutes to watch this video from the Department of Labor. It starts off with a former Secretary of Labor talking about how preventable Silicosis is during her tenure in the 1930’s and 1940’s, which I think puts the new OSHA Silica Standard into the “better late than never” category.

OSHA Silica Standard

Although the final rule on Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica in Construction became effective June 23rd, 2016 (don’t panic), enforcement of the rule in construction has been delayed until September 23rd, 2017. If you’re a contractor or you employ workers exposed to silica that means there’s not much time left to get up to speed on the OSHA Silica Standard. Here are the key provisions, along with this OSHA Silica Standard Fact Sheet and Silica FAQ, straight from OSHA:

  • Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.
  • Requires employers to: use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
  • Provides medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and gives them information about their lung health.
  • Provides flexibility to help employers — especially small businesses — protect workers from silica exposure.

OSHA estimates the new silica standard will save about 600 lives and prevent about 900 new cases of silicosis each year. Although the OSHA standard is intended to limit silica exposure at the occupational level, that doesn’t mean DIY’ers and homeowners shouldn’t protect themselves to limit their own silica exposure on projects. Just because you’re inhaling silica at home vs on the job doesn’t make you immune. In fact, it’s probably time to start thinking about protecting your lungs with the same diligence (hopefully) that you use in protecting your vision and hearing. It turns out seeing, hearing AND breathing are all pretty important – especially if you like to continue building stuff!

Stopping Silica at Its Source

Some essential equipment for drilling minus the clouds of silica

One of the key strategies behind the OSHA Silica Standard is to control the silica before it gets into the environment through what OSHA likes to call engineering controls (such as water or proper ventilation). This makes a lot of sense, especially when you think about the example at the start of this article where a worker creates a giant dust plume. Even if he or she is wearing a mask, chances are those on and around the jobsite around them are not. Compliance for the OSHA Silica Standard range from simply using an approved dust collection system like the Bosch VAC090A with HEPA filter combined with appropriate dust extraction accessories, to wearing an approved respirator. Some tasks require both dust extraction components and a respirator (particularly indoor usage), but many tasks can be OSHA-compliant without a respirator assuming you’re using what’s needed to control the silica at its source.

Bosch Speed Clean Dust Extraction Bits

Bosch Speed Clean Dust Extraction Bits are an example of the clever engineering that goes into capturing much of the silica before anyone has the misfortune of inhaling it. We were first wowed by this innovation when we demo’d them at the 2014 World of Concrete. Bosch sent us a Speed Clean Drill Bit and some gear to test it out with and we found it does a remarkable job minimizing dust in an otherwise dust-filled operation.

As you can see in the video above, the Bosch Speed Clean Drill Bits don’t extract everything. Particularly if you’re drilling overhead or horizontally (as in the video), some dust does escape as the bit initially starts removing material. Dust shrouds specifically for drilling can do a better job at capturing that initial start-up dust. However, once your hole is started, it’s hard to beat the dust extraction of the Bosch Speed Clean Drill Bits. Often these types of holes are filled with a fastener and epoxy. Without the Speed Clean Drill Bit, even if you’re using a universal dust extraction shroud, you would typically see workers blowing out the freshly bored holes with compressed air. They would also be withdrawing and reinserting the drill bit to help with material extraction. The Bosch Speed Clean Drill bit not only makes drilling faster (up to 50% faster anchor installation according to Bosch), but it also makes it a far less messy and hazardous process, especially when you compare it to blowing out each hole with compressed air.

We have used the Bosch Speed Clean Bits on multiple occasions and are always impressed with how effectively and efficiently they progress through concrete. Once you penetrate the surface of the hole with one, about the only “dust” you’ll see is sand-like grains of aggregate getting kicked loose. Those grains tend to drop to the ground rather than linger in the air, making drilling with Bosch Speed Clean bits a relatively tidy affair.

After drilling four holes through concrete block, this is the only dust that fell – mostly at the start of each drilling

Bosch Speed Clean Drill Bit Options

osha silica bosch speed clean
Bosch Speed Clean Drill Bits come in both SDS-plus and SDS-Max varieties

If you’re familiar with SDS tools, you’ll know that they come in two varieties: SDS Plus and SDS Max. The original bits in this category were simply “SDS”, which were later improved upon with SDS Plus. SDS Max, as you might guess, is a larger, heavier-duty version of SDS Plus. For SDS Plus, the Bosch Speed Clean Drill Bits currently range in size from 7/16″ to 3/4″ in diameter, with a usable length of roughly 7″ to 12″. The SDS Max Speed Clean Drill Bits range from 3/4″ to 1 3/8″ in diameter, with a usable length of roughly 12″ to 25″. Regardless of what system you’re using, these bits each come with a pre-installed adapter enabling you to connect to your vacuum.

If you peek into the adapter, you’ll see a dust extraction port which pulls the dust from the entry ports at the tip.

When it comes to concrete, mortar, sand, rock, masonry and even some paints, whether you cut, grind, drill, jackhammer, crush or sandblast, it’s a great time to equip yourself with the gear needed to limit your exposure to silica. That holds true whether you are doing these tasks as part of your job (getting OSHA Silica Standard compliant in the process), or you are doing them as you remodel your own home. You can find the Bosch SDS Plus Speed Clean Drill Bits along with numerous other accessories to make your lungs and OSHA happier at The Home Depot.

Bosch Speed Clean Drill Bit 1/2″

Buy Now - via Home Depot

Bosch Speed Clean Drill Bit 3/4″

Buy Now - via Home Depot

I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with Home Fixated in sponsored content. As a part of the sponsorship, Home Fixated is receiving compensation for the purpose of promoting The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences are our own words. This post complies with the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

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About Marc Lyman

Marc grew up under a brave single mom who "encouraged" home improvement on the family home. Early toddler gifts included a tool set, and even a cordless Bosch drill when cordless drills first came out. In grade school (give or take a few years), Marc's mom said, "We need to cut down some trees. . . . here's a chainsaw." A father figure also involved Marc in many home improvement projects, including a summer of home remodeling in Palo Alto, CA. Toss in some Obsessive Compulsive personality traits researching everything home improvement related. The end result: a genetically pre-disposed, socially sculpted home improvement machine! For his complete profile, please visit our About page. Really, it's worth it.

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