Jackhammers, also known as breaker hammers, are often used in the construction industry to break or demolish asphalt, concrete, or similar materials. Unfortunately, there are certain dangers associated with silicosis and jackhammers when these pieces of equipment are being used to cut through this type of material. Silicosis is a dangerous and sometimes deadly lung disease that can be developed after long-term exposure to fine dust particles of silica. These dust particles are typically generated when asphalt, concrete, rock, or similar items are cut through or broken.
Because of the risk for long-term or permanent lung damage after silica exposure, companies must take certain steps to reduce or eliminate these dangers for their workers. The use of jackhammers to chip or break concrete and rocks can be particularly dangerous as far as sending tiny dust particles into the air where workers can inhale them. Several measures for silica dust control exist to help reduce the hazards to which hard-working construction workers are exposed.
Wet methods are typically considered to be the best and most effective at reducing the risk of developing silicosis. This is because water is used to wet the material at the point of impact between jackhammer and the item being hammered, meaning that the silica dust is less likely to fly into the air from the start. This dust control measure actually helps with both visible silica dust and the tiny, respirable particles which are naked to the human eye.
The water for this type of safety measure can be supplied by one of two ways: either through manual application or by the use of a semi-automated water-feed system. Manual spraying is considered the simplest method and involves a helper who is dedicated to spraying a constant stream of water against the impact point while the jackhammer operator controls the breaker hammer. The helper who is spraying water can use something as simple as a garden hose nozzle to direct the flow of water. What is most important with this dust control method is that the stream of water must be sprayed constantly while the jackhammer is being used because the device will continue to break through new material that contains silica.
A semi-automated water spray system, on the other hand, eliminates the need to have a second worker directing the flow of water. Instead, a jackhammer will usually be retrofitted with a spray nozzle that can direct water to the point of impact while the hammer is in operation. It is easy enough for companies to retrofit their jackhammers with this type of silica dust control measure.
The items that will typically be needed to design this type of apparatus include:
•A water source, such as a tank truck or municipal water supply;
•A valve used to control the flow of water from that source;
•A hose or other type of tubing to deliver water from the source to the jackhammer;
•Flexible but sturdy tubing to direct the water from the jackhammer along to its nozzle;
•A durable water flow control valve that is attached to the jackhammer to control slight adjustments in the water’s flow;
•A high-quality garden hose spray nozzle that can either spray or stream water; and
•Appropriate fittings that will connect the hose, tubings, and valve and mount the hose nozzle to the jackhammer.
While wet methods can be great for minimizing the dangers associated with silicosis and jackhammers, they are not foolproof. Companies should follow all appropriate and required safety measures. However, when workers are injured while on the job, they do have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits to help cover their medical and other related expenses. Further, a worker who is fatally injured may qualify for survivor benefits to go to their surviving dependent family members. Our law firm can help those who may qualify for these types of benefits, or those who wish to pursue a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against a third party whose negligence resulted in silicosis or some other type of injury.
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Source: OSHA-NIOSH document regarding silicosis and jackhammers