In Australia, employers are held responsible for injury sustained by their employees while on the job. If you are a concrete contractor, you will need to put in place adequate safeguards to protect your workers against the whole raft of safety risks involved in concrete grinding jobs.
One of the major hazards that your workers must be protected from is the dust generated during concrete grinding operations. Concrete dust normally contains a hazardous mineral called silica (crystallised silica dioxide), which has the potential to cause silicosis, an occupational disease that is "compensable" under workers' compensations law. Here is a breakdown of measures you can take to protect your concrete workers from the silica-bearing dust that may be released into the air.
Wet grinding. This is basically grinding concrete with water. As the grinding is ongoing, water is used to suppress the dust being produced before it can become airborne. Wet grinding reduces worker exposure levels by minimising the volume of concrete dust that may be generated into the air. Because this kind of grinding involves working with water, electric concrete grinders must not be used because they pose the risk of electric shocks. Concrete grinders powered hydraulically, pneumatically or by fuel-driven engines should be used instead. If the work is to be carried out in closed spaces, hydraulically or pneumatically powered grinders should be chosen over fuel-powered grinders like gas- and diesel engine grinders, which produce harmful exhaust fumes.
Equipping concrete grinders with a dust suppression system. Your concrete grinding equipment should be equipped with a dust collector to help collect the dust generated at the job site. The dust collector is essentially a separate unit from the grinder and can be anything from a bag to a tank that can be used to hold the dust. The equipment should also be equipped with HEPA air filters to help trap the silica-containing particulates released into the air.
Providing workers with personal protective equipment. Because some dust will always be released into the air during concrete grinding operations, workers must be provided with personal protective equipment to protect them from inhaling the harmful dust. In this regard, it is vital that you provide your workers with dust masks and respirator. As concrete dust can irritate the eyes, it is also important to provide workers with safety spectacles.
Have in mind that concrete grinding is a job that calls for expert handling, so make sure your workers are trained to do the job safely.
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