WorkSafe has issued a reminder about the serious health hazards associated with wall chasing work and urged that the work only be performed in accordance with workplace safety and health laws.
Construction workers need to be aware of the risks of exposure to dust and carbon monoxide, noise, saw kick-back and serious cuts when chasing walls with hand-held power tools.
WorkSafe has issued warnings over a number of years about the hazards involved in operating petrol powered chasing saws indoors without direct fume extraction, including the risk of exposure to unacceptable levels of carbon monoxide and other exhaust gases.
A worker’s exposure to carbon monoxide when using a petrol-powered chasing saw without exhaust extraction or within walls is well above the legal occupational exposure standard.
Medical studies have shown that exposure to excessive carbon monoxide can potentially lead to a variety of serious health effects, including delayed reaction times, headaches, difficulty thinking, nausea, disorientation, personality changes, hearing problems, nerve damage and paralysis, heart and lung damage, and in severe cases coma and death.
Many of these health effects can have severe repercussions in the workplace, leading to a loss of concentration and the potential for making uncharacteristic errors that could result in severe injuries or even death.
It is acceptable under WA’s workplace safety laws to use a petrol powered saw with local (or direct) fume extraction to the outside of the building, and an electric grinder vac system can be used if the operator wears a dust-mask respirator complying with Australian Standard AS 1716 as protection against brick and concrete dust containing crystalline silica.
It is worth noting that the use of local exhaust extraction on petrol powered saws applies whether or not the roof has been installed. Air monitoring tests have clearly demonstrated that carbon monoxide exposures are well in excess of the legal exposure standards in either roof situation.
Employers of workers undertaking chasing work should implement practicable controls including:
Local ventilation on the exhaust of petrol powered saws used indoors (roof on or off);
Alternative saws – for example, an electric grinder with vacuum extraction and a respirator for extended use, a compliant 3-phase or high frequency wet electric saw or hydraulic system; or
Building in ways which will eliminate or greatly reduce the requirement for indoor chasing.
Code of practice – Concrete and masonry cutting and drilling
Guidance note – Prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning from petrol and gas powered equipment
Safety alert 09/2009 – Masonry cutting grinder causes death
Media contact: Caroline De Vaney 6251 2363 or 0408 927563 (media enquiries only)