Safety is an overused word. Naturally, we want everyone to be safe—we often tell people to “be safe” when we say goodbye, for example. The message is just a wish, though; it’s not about how to be safe or what to be safe from.
Imagine that you’re buying a power tool and you’re wondering which product is safest for an application. Your questions should focus on three basic issues: dust control, vibration reduction, and protection from cuts, bruises, pulled muscles and perhaps even broken bones.
The need for worker health protection from dust containing silica is well recognized, as is protection from wood and composite material dust. But there are other issues too. For example, wood dust can be explosive when it’s mixed with air in certain percentages and a spark is present. Also, if you use a hammer drill to make holes in concrete for installing either mechanical or adhesive anchors, the holes must be free of dust, which is best accomplished while the hole is being drilled.
When buying a tool that produces dust, make sure it has a collector with a vacuum connection—either built into the tool or as an attachment. But power tools usually operate in combination with vacuums, and that’s the other important consideration.
Mitch Burdick, strategic business development manager for Robert Bosch Tool Corporation, Mount Prospect, Illinois, says vacuums must pass 100 percent of the dust they collect through their regular or HEPA filters, and this usually rules out inexpensive vacuums.
Also, it’s best to use vacuums that collect dust in bags because emptying the vacuum won’t cause dust to become airborne again. Burdick says Bosch will introduce its Speed Clean rotary hammer drill bit with a milled center channel. When attached to a vacuum, it removes dust where it’s created.
Vibration reduction isn’t talked about much, but it is very important because using tools (and machines) that vibrate can damage bone joints and small blood vessels in hands, arms and legs, and can even cause nerve destruction. Vibration standards are regulated in Europe but not in the U.S., so it’s up to you to search for tools with the best vibration reduction.
Having said that, vibration control can be a tradeoff with tool productivity, making the decision about what to buy even more difficult. You should buy tools with the best vibration controls and the best productivity. To reduce vibration, many manufacturers make tools with shock-reducing handles and grips, which mainly isolate the grip area from the vibration.
But some manufacturers are going a step further by employing additional vibration-reduction technologies to reduce vibration before it reaches the grip area. Burdick says companies such as Bosch have integrated vibration-reduction technologies into the hammer mechanism (longer hammer tube) in chipping hammers to reduce vibration levels, and have also added counter-balance technology on select models. Tools with the greatest vibration include angle grinders, hammer drills, chipping hammers, jigsaws and reciprocating saws.
Shrouds covering moving parts on tools are now standard. Search for tools that have the best protection in all phases of their operation, as well as the best line of sight.
Active Response Technology developed by Bosch is beginning to appear on tools to help reduce the risk of serious injuries that result when tools or bits suddenly bind up.
The marketplace has every kind of tool—it’s your job to find the safest ones.
Joe Nasvik is a writer and editor serving the construction and concrete industries. He has 18 years experience as a concrete contractor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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