The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is recommending that attaching a regular shop vacuum to a dust-collecting circular saw provides a simple, low cost solution to reducing the exposure of construction workers to dust when cutting fiber-cement siding.
This siding, which has grown in popularity in recent years, contains crystalline silica and when cut, can create fine dust particles that workers can inhale. Breathing dust that contains crystalline silica can lead to silicosis, a deadly lung disease. Despite the fact that silicosis is preventable, about 100 people die from it each year.
NIOSH scientists found that circular saws in the lab, used in conjunction with an external vacuum with a cyclone pre-separator and a HEPA filter, removed at least 81 percent of the hazardous dust even with an air flow lower than that found in a typical shop vacuum.
Field tests revealed that when used at construction sites where workers were cutting fiber-cement siding, the amount of silica-containing dust in the air was found to be well below the NIOSH recommended exposure limit for crystalline silica.
NIOSH recommendations can be found in “Workplace Solutions: Reducing Hazardous Dust Exposure when Cutting Fiber-Cement Siding”