Dust from power tools: are you using the right level of filtration?

Dust from power tools: are you using the right level of filtration?

More than simply an irritation, dust generated during construction can be extremely dangerous. The Health and Safety Executive states that ‘regularly breathing in dust can cause diseases like lung cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease’. In fact, silica – commonly found in building materials – is the second biggest killer after asbestos.

If you work in the industry, you need to be aware of the dangers posed to your health, and the effective ways to minimise your exposure to harm. Modern-day power tools create much higher levels of dust, so common-place items like saws, sanders and grinders present a greater risk than non-electric hand tools.

The material that you’re cutting also plays a part in the nature of the risk, as some substances are more hazardous than others. For example, silica is classed as posing a ‘serious’ risk. Even wood dust can be carcinogenic according to health experts and therefore precautions must be taken.

Reducing the risk from construction dust

One of the biggest changes to the industry is the tightening of Health and Safety regulations around protecting workers and creating a safe work environment. To improve air quality, sites must use vacuums and dust extractors to trap the dust and safeguard the health of those around.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (2002) introduced different levels of filtration needed to combat dust found on most modern construction sites. There are three levels, or standards, which determine the maximum amount of dust that can pass through the filter and into the atmosphere – thereby limiting exposure.

Dust filter levels include:

L-class for light hazards (e.g. household dust)

M-class for medium hazards (e.g. wood, filler and concrete)

H-class for high hazards (e.g. asbestos or pathogens)

Designed to meet the needs of these different filter classes, most modern extractor units will clearly state this classification. Some of our customers are surprised to hear that construction sites have been known to turn away tradespeople with anything less than an M-class model.

With a wealth of dust extractors and vacuums on the market now, here are some of our top recommendations, including trusted brand names and key features to look out for:

Festool is one of the biggest and most highly-regarded producers of mobile dust extractors in the market. If you’re thinking of investing, and work in the trade, we would recommend an M-class product like Festool’s 574825 Mobile Dust Extractor CTM MIDI I 10V Cleantec, which will cover all bases.

Lightweight and compact, this model uses innovative Bluetooth technology which remotely activates when using cordless power tools. With a manual suction hose and a filter that can be changed from the outside, this product is easy to maintain and robust in design.

The Dewalt DWV902m Construction Dust Extractor 110V contains a duel filter cleaning system for tough construction applications. The filter is cleaned every 30 seconds to reduce clogging and power tools can be connected.

One cost-effective worksite system is the Nilfisk Alton Aero 26-21 Wet & Dry Vacuum. This unit can be easily transported to site and features a power tool adapter to suck up dust at the source, which means it’s easier to see what you’re working on.

Recommended dust extraction features

Approximately 95% of the dust extractors on the market have universal extensions which can be fitted to most power tools. However, it’s worth checking compatibility with your equipment and whether additional couplings can be bought. Another useful feature is auto start, which runs as soon as you start working and continues for a short time after you stop.

Regardless of which brand you choose, this is one piece of kit that you shouldn’t do without. Our customers repeatedly tell us these products have a huge impact on their work – saving time and energy on the clean-up process, as well as their health.

If you’re unsure which dust extractor or vacuum is best for you, give us a call or pop into our Redhill store and we’ll be happy to guide you in the right direction.


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