Neumann Brothers and Forrest & Associate Renovate Iowa State Capital
During renovations, demolitions, clean up projects and just about any type of construction, controlling dust particles has become a challenge and an important aspect of the job. Forrest & Associate of Des Moines, Iowa, used new equipment from Star Equipment of Des Moines and others to ensure its capability for controlling dust on the Iowa State Capitol historic restoration and to meet new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements.
"With the new law, you have to be dust free as much as possible," says Richard C. Felice, President of Forrest & Associate. "It was helpful using this new equipment, because it really reduces the amount of dust."
Felice reports his firm continues work on the Iowa State Capitol, which has taken place for the past eight years. The company is replacing about 12,000 pieces of brick in the dome and has replaced some exterior stone. Neumann Brothers, also based in Des Moines, serves as general contractor on the project.
Star Equipment provided vacuums to contain 99 percent of the dust generated on the Iowa Capitol renovation. Forrest & Associate has worked with Star Equipment for more than 50 years. On this project, Forrest & Associate used one of Star Equipment's iQ Power Tools, including the iQ360X masonry saw with a fully integrated dust collection system. This is used to cut the brick for the job. It features 100 percent dry cutting, collects up to 99.5 percent of the dust, is compact and lightweight, eliminates dust cleanup and problems and is OSHA compliant. The iQ360x is the world's first fully integrated saw with dust collection.
Additionally, Forrest & Associate deployed a Husqvarna K3000Vac Power Cutter. Unlike other electric cutters, the blade rotates forward, cutting into the material efficiently and with minimal strain on the user. This electric power cutter enables clean dry cutting without dust or water. Attached with a vacuum system, it provides superior dust collection.
The New OSHA Regulation
The U.S. Department of Labor first recognized respirable crystalline silica hazards in the 1930s, after a wave of worker deaths. When OSHA was created, in 1971, the department set standards for worker exposure, however, OSHA decided those standards, based on research from the 1960s and earlier, had become outdated and did not "reflect more recent scientific evidence." OSHA proposed the current rule in 2013, held hearings and accepted comment, before issuing a final rule, effective June 2016.
Felice says the law "has hit the masonry industry hard."
The rule reduces permissible exposure limits for crystalline silica from 250 micrograms to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged over an eight-hour shift. The agency began enforcement for the construction industry in September. The government estimates the cost to the construction industry at $511 million annually, but the Construction Industry Safety Coalition estimates that cost to be $5 billion each year.
The law requires the use of engineering controls to limit exposure and the use of respirators when those controls cannot adequately limit exposure. There can be no dry sweeping or brushing. Additionally, compressed air cannot be used to clean clothes or surfaces unless the device is used with a ventilation system. Employers must have a written exposure control plan, designate a competent person to implement that plan, offer medical exams to workers exposed to the dust, keep records of workers' silica exposure and medical exams, and train workers about the risks.
"Our employees already are required to wear face masks, and we will now need to have vacuums on saws to collect the dust or cut the material while wet," Felice explains. "All dust producing operations must be minimized."
OSHA states that the goal of the new measure is to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America's workers by limiting their exposure to the dust. OSHA estimates 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica at work, about 2 million of them construction workers, usually those working with stone or concrete.
The agency anticipates the rule will save more than 600 lives and prevent 900 new cases of silicosis annually. Additionally, OSHA expects the rule will provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion.
There are two standards, one for construction and the other for the general industry. Additional regulations require workers not have facial hair and have instruments to test dust particles. Forrest & Associate sent its workers to classes to understand the rule changes and what was required.
OSHA is offering free on-site consultations to small- and medium-sized businesses. The consultants work for state agencies or universities. The agency says these consults are separate from enforcement and will not result in penalties.
"The problem with the law is the inspectors and state people in charge will not know what to expect or how they will need to react as issues arise," Felice says. "This being a new law, any issues that do arise will be dealt with on a trial and error basis and will take some time to be worked out."
Dealer Adds to Equipment Ease
Felice says Forrest & Associate has "become well recognized as a masonry contractor willing to go the extra mile to provide the highest standard of total quality masonry construction in Iowa and the Midwest."
Max and Beverly Bowman founded Star Equipment in Des Moines in 1968. The company focuses on providing customers with light to general construction equipment and specialty products from a wide-range of manufacturers. Star Equipment, a Bowman family-owned and operated business, employs more than 70 people.
The company sells productivity, offering the latest technology and know-how to tailor products to each customer's needs. To keep the equipment operating in top form, Star Equipment offers on-site lube and service trucks and an in-house service department with skilled mechanics at its four Iowa branches: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Ames and Waterloo. It also rents equipment, everything from excavators and skid steers to lasers and GPS grade-control units.
Throughout the years, Star Equipment has worked to ensure it has the products and equipment its clients need to safely build and renovate buildings and meet all government regulations. Additionally, it invests heavily in employee training, so staff members understand not only the products it sells and maintains but also how those pieces of equipment can help make its customers more profitable.