OSHA silica standard drives sales for tools to comply


HMN-Changes to the OSHA silica standard have driven sales on dust control tools and devices.  In an effort to control exposures to the crystalline dust, some are calling silica the new asbestos.  (Equipment World)

Bosch’s VAC090A_9-gallon dust extractor attached to a grinder is among the company’s solutions for compliance with OSHA silica regulations.

Tool manufacturers have seen a big boost in sales on products designed to meet recent federal regulations to reduce workers’ exposure to crystalline silica dust.

And solutions that involve a vacuum attached to the tool to extract dust appear to be leading the charge.

“Demand in the market has skyrocketed,” Eric Hollister, Hilti senior director of electric tools and accessories, says of vacuum solutions for a variety of handheld tools.

OSHA’s silica regulations took effect September 23, leading contractors to buy vacuums and related attachments for drills, saws, grinders and other devices to prevent silica dust from entering the air and workers’ lungs. Silica is found in concrete, brick and stone and has been linked to the lung disease silicosis, lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses when airborne.

“It’s asbestos version 2,” says Kevin Gee, Milwaukee Tool senior product manager. “A couple of decades ago, we had asbestos identified that, if you got exposed to it and it was airborne, you got things like mesothelioma.

“Now it’s silica – you get silicosis.”

Leading up to the rules, which OSHA says will prevent 900 silicosis cases a year, tool manufacturers began introducing a variety of products. But it wasn’t until just before and after the rules took effect that sales began to rise significantly and achieve broader market appeal.

The first wave of sales came from large contractors who realized the rules weren’t going to be delayed any longer.

“When September became very real, the August rush was insane,” says Ricky Cacchiotti, senior product manager concrete products for DeWalt. “We saw a lot of the large contractors tool up.”

Along with fearing OSHA fines, those contractors wanted to be prepared to bid on government and large industrial projects that would require more stringent dust reduction.

“It’s literally written on the board as you walk onto the jobsite,” says Gee of large construction projects. “So before, there’s things for slips, trips and falls, how to use ladders properly; they are now starting to call out the OSHA dust regulation and being compliant.”

Some contractors, however, waited to see whether the regulations might be overturned on appeal. But now most have realized the regulations are here to stay, tool companies say.

“Across the country, they’re starting to see enforcement from both OSHA and, more notably, from the larger general contractors,” Hollister says. “The general contractors who are responsible for the full site are basically saying to the subs, we expect that you can provide us with an exposure control plan for the work … and prove that your people are fully compliant.”


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