Silicosis and Stationary Masonry Saws
Many different types of tools are used in the construction industry to make workers’ lives easier as they go about their important tasks. Unfortunately, the use of many of those tools can pose threats to worker safety. Work accidents or long-term exposure to hazardous materials can result in injuries to hard-working individuals, leaving them struggling to pay for medical and other related expenses if they do not fully understand their legal rights. Fortunately, the law provides certain legal remedies for those who have been injured by silicosis and stationary masonry saws.
Silicosis is a dangerous lung disease that is developed after long-term exposure to a substance called respirable crystalline silica. Silica is typically generated when workers crush, cut, drill, or grind materials in the construction process, such as concrete, masonry, rock, and tile. Without the proper safety precautions, these tiny particles of silica dust are showered into the air and breathed deep into a worker’s lungs, where they then cause significant damage. In the worst of cases, workers develop silicosis, which can sometimes be fatal.
Companies that employ construction workers who are exposed to silica dust generated by stationary masonry saws are required to take certain steps to limit or eliminate the danger to their employees. There are two types of dust control measures that are considered particularly effective: wet cutting and vacuum dust collection systems. Both have been shown to greatly reduce the levels of silica dust to which workers are exposed, when used properly. Well-designed ventilation booths can also greatly reduce the dangers associated with silica dust exposure.
Many stationary masonry saws are manufactured in such a way as to make wet cutting easy. These specific saws come with water basins that can hold several gallons of water, in addition to pump systems that allow for recycling water during the wet cutting process. For those masonry saws whose water systems are no longer functional, owners may be able to have the manufacturers reactivate this function on the saws. In fact, water cooling is known to actually extend the life of a saw blade and the tool itself, so many suppliers have the necessary tools to make wet cutting a reality.
Wet cutting is typically considered the most effective method for controlling silica dust due to the fact it actually stops dust from being introduced into the air in the first place. Wet dust is much less likely to shoot into the air, and even in cases where it does, it is less likely to remain airborne.
There are some important steps to consider when using wet cutting methods that will help keep dust emission levels as low as possible:
•Maintain all hoses, pumps, and nozzles in good working order;
•Have the saws and all accessories maintained regularly;
•Heat the work area being used whenever conditions are at or below freezing levels;
•Either rinse or replace water filters on a regular basis to keep water flowing at an optimal level and to prevent the pump being damaged; and
•Appropriately dispose all water that contains silica dust in a manner that will not introduce that dust into the air.
Vacuum dust collection systems can be another effective method for cutting down silica dust exposure, although not quite as much so as wet cutting. With VDC systems, a vacuum is utilized to suction silica dust from the area where it is being cut before it can be propelled into the air. These systems usually utilize either specialized fittings attached to the saw itself or some sort of device affixed to the rear of the saw. When dust collectors, or exterior hoods, are attached to the back of a stationary masonry saw, a high level of airflow exhaust must be employed to effectively collect the silica dust.
Of course, even when companies and construction workers use dust control measures, silica dust can still be generated into the air and result in worker injury. Someone who has been injured due to silicosis and stationary masonry saws has retains the legal right to seek financial restitution to help cover their relevant costs. A worker who is injured while on the job will usually be able to pursue benefits under workers’ compensation insurance. Someone who is injured due to a third party’s negligence may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit against that party. The surviving relatives of fatally injured workers may be able to pursue either workers’ compensation survivor benefits or file a wrongful death lawsuit in a civil court, depending on the specific facts of their cases. Our personal injury law firm can help injured victims or surviving relatives decide which course may be the best for them to take.
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Source: OSHA-NIOSH document regarding silicosis and stationary masonry saws