17/01/2020 - 12:39

Saw cuts into silica emissions

17/01/2020 - 12:39

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A Perth-based company has developed a new device it says cuts tradies’ exposure to silica dust, which has been responsible for the rising incidence of silicosis among building and construction workers.

Saw cuts into silica emissions
Craig Penty (left) and Steven Terpstra say the Edge Powercutter is a revolution in the handling of hazardous building materials. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

A Perth-based company has developed a new device it says cuts tradies’ exposure to silica dust, which has been responsible for the rising incidence of silicosis among building and construction workers.

Guarda Systems is the inventor of the Edge Powercutter, a purpose-built concrete cutting saw and vacuum combination that stops the release of silica dust into the air.

Director Craig Penty told Business News the saw was developed in response to what had been described as an epidemic in the construction sector, with hundreds of tradespeople across the country contracting silicosis after exposure to silica dust.

The issue is of particular concern in stone benchtop manufacturing, with Western Australia’s Department of Mines Industry Regulation and Safety issuing a safety alert in late 2018 warning tradespeople of serious health risks of exposure to silica dust.

“It’s estimated globally that there are tens of millions of cases,” Mr Penty said.

“It is the world’s largest dust-related disease, it’s bigger than asbestos, just because it’s everywhere.

“Silica dust is in concrete, it’s in bricks and it is in rocks.

“With asbestos, you can quarantine it, and say ‘We’re not making this stuff any more’, but with silica dust, because it’s in the earth, you can’t do that.”

Director Steven Terpstra said it had taken about two years to create the Edge Powercutter, which is an evolution of Guarda Systems’ Fume Tube device the company created in 2015 to eliminate carbon monoxide exposure among users of petrol-powered cutting devices.

Mr Terpstra said he undertook a comprehensive safety analysis on all of the procedures on a building site and once he identified the dangers, was no longer willing to expose workers at his concrete cutting business, Enviro Chasing Services, to that sort of environment.

“It was either come up with a solution or we would have to close the business down,” he said.

Mr Penty said the saw removed all of the hazardous material created in the concrete cutting process, with the dust converted into slurry which is then buried and capped by a concrete slab.

“You can use a mask, and respirators are available and they do a job, but respirators are the last line of defense, he said.

“They are uncomfortable, they are expensive and sometimes they need to be fitted by professionals, and that can cost as much as the saw itself.

“It is much better to control the dust at the source before it’s released, because it’s not just the person doing the cutting who is exposed, it’s all of the other people wandering around.

“If it ends up on the ground or on the walls it needs to be cleaned up later, and it gets released into the air again when you try to vacuum it up.

“An engineering control at the source is much better than just relying on respirators.”

First shipments of the Edge Powercutters will be sent to customers in coming weeks, with the patented device being manufactured in China.

Mr Penty said Guarda Systems was hoping to sell between 3,000 and 4,000 units in Australia, New Zealand and the UK in the next 12 months, while the company is also developing a strategy to distribute to the US construction market.

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