Manufacturers of dust collection equipment and fiber cement siding are responding to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration's (OSHA) proposed rules that would raise the exposure standards for airborne crystalline silica (silica dust). OSHA's proposed rule would reduce the current permissible exposure limit (PEL) from 100 µg/m3 to 50 µg/m3. Reminiscent of the Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule, projects that would exceed the new silica dust limits limit would require the use of special tools, respirators, or other remedial measures.

"Silica is an integral building component used in countless building products, including James Hardie fiber cement products," James Hardie said in a statement. "Along with other construction and manufacturing industry leaders, James Hardie will work with OSHA to provide feedback about the newly proposed PEL reduction."

Product Innovation

Public hearings on the silica dust issue will begin in March 2014, but manufacturers aren't wasting time beefing up their product lines. James Hardie will dedicate a portion of its exhibit space at the 2014 International Builders' Show (IBS) to Roan Tools to support Roan's introduction of a new dust-collecting circular saw. The saw will be a companion tool for installers working with James Hardie fiber cement siding, and "will make worksites even safer" for those crews, the manufacturer says. New product details will be released at IBS in February 2014.

Also exhibiting at the event, Bosch Tools recently announced their introduction of a new series of nine- and 14-gallon dust and dirt collection vacuums (pictured above and at right). The units are designed to both increase dust extraction performance and decrease the loss of suction experienced by other vacuums by offering both automatic and semi-automatic on-board filter cleaning options. Bosch says the vacuums will be important in applications ranging from concrete cutting and surfacing to collecting dust particles in stationary workshops.

Ongoing Education

In addition to new product offerings, fiber cement manufacturers say they will continue to work diligently in educating installers about proper techniques and safety when using fiber cement materials.

Fiber cement siding manufacturer Nichiha said in a statement that the company "commends the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's move to create tighter restrictions to ensure worker protection from exposure to silica. Our customer's health and safety comes first, and Nichiha is committed to 100% transparency and providing its customers with comprehensive fiber cement installation guideline tools, such as literature and training, to ensure full compliance of proper safety practices."

James Hardie agreed. In addition to background information on crystalline silica, best practices, and safety measures for working with fiber cement, customers can schedule worksite visits by James Hardie field personnel who can provide guidance on safe product installation.