OSEA Safety Blog

Jackhammer Safety

Friday, September 11, 2020 Greg Santo

Let's see now … you have been tasked with using a jackhammer. You’ve been trained on how to connect the pneumatic lines to the compressor, you’ve known how to start the compressor, you’ve checked and you have an adequate supply of fuel, your foreman showed you how to chip away at the substrate, and you know how to use the jackhammer. What other things should you be aware of?

  1. Do you have adequate hearing protection that will provide enough protection considering the noise reduction rating (NRR)?
  2. Do you have anti-vibration gloves to absorb the energy from the vibration of the jackhammer? Repetitive use of power tools when using jackhammers and earth tampers exposes workers to hand-arm vibration and is a risk factor for hand-arm vibration syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  3. Safety glasses and an impact-resistant face shield must be worn at all times when using a jackhammer.
  4. Steel-toed leather boots are a must to protect your feet.
  5. What type of surface are you jackhammering?
    1. Concrete, brick, or block? If yes, you need to be trained to the hazards of crystalline silica; which is released whenever building materials made from sand products is mechanically disturbed. Silicosis is the disease that results from crystalline silica. You will need to be trained on the hazards and how to safely work with building materials that contain crystalline silica. Your employer will need to provide a competent person and provide a task-specific exposure control plan.
    2. Your company will need to include you in respiratory protection if you operate the jackhammer longer than four hours per day, or if you are jackhammering indoors. This typically starts with a respiratory history evaluated by a physician or other licensed health-care professional and may require a physical examination.
    3. You will need either a water delivery system or a Vacuum Dust Collection System (VDCS) to control crystalline silica exposure. Commercially available VDCSs for jackhammers and handheld powered chipping tools reduce silica exposure. A VDCS includes a:
      1. hood or shroud for the tool that is recommended by the manufacturer;
      2. vacuum meeting the specifications recommended by the tool manufacturer, with enough suction to capture dust at the cutting point;
      3. dust collector equipped with a filter efficiency of 99 percent or greater and a filter-cleaning mechanism; and
      4. vacuum exhaust hose capable of providing the airflow recommended by the tool manufacturer. A 1.5” to 2” diameter vacuum exhaust hose is typically adequate.
    4. Focus on the following areas:
      1. Keep the vacuum hose clear and free of debris, kinks, and tight bends.
      2. Change vacuum-collection bags as needed or at least as often as the manufacturer recommends. Do not overfill the bag.
      3. Set a regular schedule for maintenance and filter cleaning of the VDCS.
      4. Avoid exposure to dust when changing vacuum bags and cleaning or replacing air filters.
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