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Respiratory Protection When Drilling for Scaffold Anchor Installation

9th October 2014

As a result of the HSE’s ongoing refurbishment initiative – we have been asked by several clients what they should be doing in terms of controlling the hazards associated with the installation of masonry anchors. The HSE’s ‘October initiative’ is concentrating on refurbishment work and within this sector, scaffolds are often prevalent and masonry anchors are a very common way of stabilising these scaffolds.

Hydrajaws Pull Tester

Historically, the construction industry has treated occupational health as the poor relation in health and safety, with safety being given far more attention than health. This is probably due to the fact that safety hazards are often realised far more quickly, whereas health hazards can take far longer, sometimes many years, to manifest themselves in the form of occupational health issues.

Those responsible for installing anchors should be aware of the harmful health effects that can arise from this activity and in addition to noise element, (hearing protection should usually be worn when using percussion drills!) the two primary hazards are the inhalation of dust, which can cause respiratory problems, and the use of vibrating equipment which can cause Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), which result in painful and disabling disorders of the blood vessels, nerves and joints.

A thorough risk assessment of the anchor installation activity would identify the hazardous elements of work of this nature. This article is intended to concentrate on the respiratory hazard, but it is worth noting that any vibration assessment must consider the vibration rating of the piece of kit being used (i.e. the drill!) and the HSE have produced this handy micro site to help you control work of this nature.

Drilling of concrete, brick, block or masonry will invariably release tiny silica dust particles known as respirable crystalline silica (RCS) that are invisible to the naked eye, but which can be inhaled and can cause: –

Silicosis (a chronic disease that restricts the ability to breathe)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD – which are a group of diseases including bronchitis and emphysema, resulting in severe breathlessness, prolonged coughing and chronic disability)

Lung Cancer

There are several ways of controlling the dust hazard created by drilling anchors and the most common are: –

The use of a dust extraction device – many drill manufacturers sell these as an accessory. If you use this method the following may not be required as dust release is prevented and is controlled at source.

The provision of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to those using the drill – NOTE the respirator must be fitted with a P3 filter. As with all RPE, the wearer must be face fit tested to ensure that the respirator provides the required level of protection and will usually need to be clean shaven.

PS Respirator

As a rule of thumb, if the mask has one strap, then you can consider it c**p! Semi-disposable respirators are available and sometimes offer better value for money than the throw away variety and do not carry the same inspection requirements of other varieties. The image shown is a quality disposable P3 respirator by 3m and would be acceptable for work of this nature.

In short, the HSE will expect to see that the risks created by drilling anchors are controlled and those in the vicinity of airborne dust must wear RPE and must have been face-fit-tested for the type of RPE being used!

Further advice is available through these HSE publications on silica dust and RPE.

Simian clients are free to contact their Account Manager for advice.