A number of tasks in construction generate worker overexposures to respirable crystalline silica dust, which is a significant contributor to occupational mortality and morbidity. This study evaluated the performance of commercially available engineering controls used in dusty construction tasks commonly performed by bricklayers.
Local exhaust ventilation (LEV) controls for a portable abrasive cutter and for tuckpointing grinders were examined at a bricklayers' training center, as were two stationary wet saws. Personal breathing zone air samples were collected with and without the use of LEV or water suppression during simulated concrete block cutting, brick cutting, and tuckpointing.
Compared with the use of no exposure control during block and brick cutting, the portable LEV unit significantly reduced mean respirable quartz exposures by 96% for block cutting and 91% for brick cutting (p < 0.01). The use of stationary wet saws was also associated with 91% reductions in exposure (p < 0.01). For tuckpointing, the reductions in mean respirable quartz concentrations were between 91% and 93% with the LEV controls (p < 0.05).
Reductions of up to 96% in mean respirable quartz concentration were observed between control and no-control scenarios. These reductions with commercially available off-the-shelf tools demonstrate the effectiveness of engineering control interventions to reduce crystalline silica exposures in construction. Strategies to further improve control performance and approaches for increasing control interventions in construction are needed.