Let’s talk silica dust control… or the lack of it! Specifically, we’re talking about implementing silica dust control in your hardscape business.
If you’re a hardscape contractor, I sure hope you’ve heard about the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard that took effect in 2017. OSHA drastically reduced the exposure limits with this new law.
To be honest, though, there’s still a sizable majority of hardscape contractors who have done, well, nothing!
If you’re one of them, let me give you 5 reasons to reconsider.
1. Avoid fines: I can’t go too far into this issue in a short blog. Suffice it to say, the starting point is $8,000 per person on your crew exposed to silica dust. Not just your crew, but anyone nearby exposed to excessive silica. You’ve got 4 guys? Fine, $32K. Oh, the dust cloud drifted over to the neighbor’s house? And the roofers were exposed to it? 5 guys on that roof, $40K for them. Then OSHA asks for your Written Control Plan, which you don’t have. Oops, there’s another fine. Did you conduct Hazard Communication training for your crew? Conduct exposure testing if necessary? I think you can see where this is going… and understand how a contractor can be assessed a $304K fine. (and yes, that has happened!)
2. Care for your employees: By law, employers are required to protect their employees working in hardscaping. For myself, it goes beyond that. It’s more than just complying with the law… ethically and morally, the lives of my employees are my responsibility. I care too much about them to risk them unnecessarily. Implementing Silica Dust Control in our hardscape businesses should be about caring for the people who help us succeed…our employees.
3. Cleaner jobsites: Do you pressure wash the house after you’re done building a hardscape patio? Or do you blow everything off and into the neighbor’s yard? If you’ve been in the hardscaping business for a few years, you’ve probably heard a complaint or two from either the client or the neighbors. Controlling silica dust from cutting and grinding concrete will eliminate a lot of issues. Ever hear about the crew who washed the neighbor’s Ferrari because they got dust on it? Ruined the paint from all the abrasive dust. You don’t want to be that guy!
My crew tells me that if we didn’t have dust control, they would leave.
4. Marketing for clients People talk, right? How much of an impression do you think you make when you blow silica dust all over your client’s house? “Sure, we love the new patio. But for 3 weeks we had to keep all the doors and windows shut. It was such a pain, the dust even got under the door seal! And I had to hire someone else to wash the house before I could have you all over!” VS… “Hey, I just had our patio rebuilt! There was some dust from excavation, but I couldn’t believe how fussy they were about controlling their dust! Every time they made a cut, they either used water or a vacuum to keep it clean. We were really impressed!” Who do you want to be? If you’re a leader in adopting dust control in the hardscape market, then sell yourself on it! Plus, you can use it as a competitive advantage. Let prospective customers know how much you value their health and the health of your team. It will be a selling point.
5. Marketing for employees: Reputation matters. A lot. Face it, we’re in one of the most competitive labor markets seen for a long time. We can invest in lots of specialized equipment. In fact, we HAVE to do so to remain competitive. But… without workers, we’re just another solo hardscaper grumbling about how terrible Gen Z is and nobody born after 1980 wants to work anymore. Workers today are smarter than they used to be (or at least smarter than me when I started in the hardscape industry!) They don’t have to work in unsafe conditions…and why should they? Develop a reputation for caring about your crew, and for keeping them safe & happy. Watch your turnover drop and your crew members bring new hires onboard without having to advertise for more help!
I’ve been in landscaping for my entire career, hardscaping for well over a decade.
I’ve lived the contractor’s life.
I still do, and we continue to build outdoor living areas in PA.
Dust Killer Tools was launched to meet the needs of my own crew at Willow Gates Landscaping, and we continue to conduct silica exposure testing as well as R&D out in the real world!
My crew tells me that if we didn’t have dust control, they would leave. They can’t imagine having to work in that dust again!