Safety Issues When Working With Concrete Saws
Power tools can be extremely dangerous, especially those that are used for concrete saw cutting. Power saws, in particular, need to be handled with care and respect, because the blade can cause a lot of damage.
Safety is a primary issue to consider before picking up any type of power saw.
There are multiple options when it comes to sawing concrete, from entry-level flat work to wall saws, wire saws, handheld cut-off saws, and traditional chainsaws. Typical cut out saws use a disc blade, but there are also those with ring saw blades, abrasive blades, diamond blades, and custom chainsaw blades.
The majority of saws have electric motors, although some have gas engines and even hydraulic alternatives. It is important that you are aware of the type of engines available to determine the safety procedure to follow.
Safety Issues To Consider When Using Concrete Cutting Saws
The most obvious danger when cutting concrete is the saw blade. If used incorrectly or in a sloppy manner, operators might cut themselves, or worse still sever a finger or limb. It might sound far-fetched, but it happens. Kickback and locking in are also issues to be aware of. Another major risk is the effect of silica dust that is often generated when cutting concrete.
Dangers of Saw Blades
For saws, the most crucial safety issues include ensuring guards are maintained and positioned correctly, and blades kept straight and tight. It is also essential that the correct blade is used for every task.
Diamond blades are preferred for cutting concrete for various reasons:
- They are much more effective than abrasive blades.
- They are less costly than most alternative options.
But there is still considerable choice amongst diamond blades, and they must be used correctly. If not used for the correct application the blade could break. Furthermore, it is important to check that the blade is not damaged beforehand as damaged blades break more easily during cutting. A damaged blade may overheat and this could result in cracking that damages the blade, and often the work piece being cut as well.
One way to check the condition of the saw blade is to knock the blade with a wooden club. If the blade makes a ringing sound, chances are the blade is damaged. In any case, it is advisable to check saw blades regularly to ensure they are always in prime condition.
Correct mounting of the saw blade may seem to be a simple task, but it can be quite complex and is crucial for safety. The first step when mounting any blade is to turn off the power and ensure the cord is unplugged. This may seem obvious, but it does lead to accidents.
Once the power is off, use the correct tools to tighten the arbor. This will ensure that the blade is correctly placed and won’t wobble when the saw is turned on. When using a new blade it is important that it is able to spin at maximum speed without coming apart.
Dangers of Kickback and Locking In
Viewed slightly differently by various saw manufacturers, “kickback” refers to the point where the saw pulls back toward the user. “Locking in” refers to the point where the blade becomes jammed in concrete and pulls the saw from the user. Both of these issues can be detrimental to the operation, but both can be avoided through correct safety procedures.
Kickback can be caused when the upper section of the cutting blade is obstructed. To avoid this from happening, keep the saw’s blade spinning at maximum speed before cutting.
Locking in is a similar issue to kickback and can result from the blade being pinched or shifted by a moving work piece. If possible, clamp the work piece to stop this from happening. Another cause might be cutting of a radius too quickly or too deeply. You can avoid this by making a shallow guide before cutting more deeply into the concrete with high-speed diamond blades.
Dangers of Silica Dust
If you are cutting concrete with a diamond or abrasive blade, it is very likely that the blade will generate silica dust, which can be a serious health hazard. Because it is very fine, silica dust is easily inhaled and can result in a serious lung condition known as lung fibrosis.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, approximately 300 construction workers die every year from lung fibrosis caused by silica dust inhalation. This is why the Institute has implemented a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for airborne silica dust crystals. The PEL determines how much silica dust a worker can be exposed to during a single shift. A good rule of thumb is that if the dust can be seen, chances are it exceeds the allowable PEL limit.
The measures used to prevent exposure to silica dust are known as “engineering controls” and they need to be implemented for adequate safety measures in a company. The PEL is highly significant because it indicates the measures business owners and operators need to take to avoid too much silica dust being airborne. Anyone who can’t avoid an area where silica dust is present should use a respirator – including anyone working with concrete saws.
At the end of the day, safety issue that seem obvious to one person may be less apparent to another. All saws are packaged with a list of power tool safety rules. These range from unplugging electric tools before changing blades to using the tool for its noted application rather than another task. Follow them!
Maintain a Safe Environment
Regardless of specific issues, it is essential that employers and workers maintain a secure environment. To ensure that the health of non-construction device operators is maintained, it is recommended that these individuals remain a minimum of 50 m from any concrete cutting operations. It is also advised that all workers wear the correct protective equipment and take personal measures to avoid any risks associated for concrete cutters. This includes safety goggles to reduce the risks of dust associated with workers’ eyes. It is essential that these glasses are comfortable because workers will be wearing them for prolonged periods of time.