From equipment hazards to dangerous chemicals and harmful dust, there are a plethora of dangers present in the surface preparation industry. Taking the time to understand the proper precautions and operating procedures may help you avoid serious injuries and diseases. Runyon Surface Prep has compiled some tips that we hope will not only keep you safe but also help you be more productive while doing so.

1. Protect Yourself – Even if You’ve Done This Before

Safe surface preparation starts with having the right gear and equipment. You can have decades of experience yet falter in this one fundamental area. You’ll want footwear—like steel toe boots—designed to protect you from the pitfalls of heavy machinery and slick surfaces. You should also avoid wearing loose clothing, especially when working with powered equipment like grinders and power trowels. And, of course, don’t forget about ear and eye protection.

Your approach to polishing will also dictate your safety precautions. Consider, for example, wet polishing and dry polishing:

Wet Polishing Concrete

Wet polishing concrete is typically safer than the dry polishing alternative, due to the lack of dust. However, you should properly dispose of slurry to prevent spreading harmful chemicals.

Dry Polishing Concrete

When kicking up harmful concrete dust, or crystalline silica dust from concrete, a respirator is a necessity – especially when working indoors in an area not properly ventilated or without a centralized vacuum system.

2. Follow OSHA Guidelines Regarding Crystalline Silica Dust

Speaking of crystalline silica dust – there is much more at play when grinding and polishing concrete than a respirator can combat. OSHA has specific guidelines for operations working with concrete that limit crystalline silica exposure for workers. Some of the more pressing compliance measures include:

  • Vacuum systems with HEPA filters which have been verified to contain harmful dust at 99.99% efficiency (or 0.3 microns)
  • A control plan for exposure that includes designating someone who is competent to implement it
  • Educate employees and contract workers on the risks of silica and preventative measures for exposure
  • Provide exams for workers whose duties make them more prone to silica exposure – this includes lung tests and x-rays every three years

Penalties for violating federal safety compliance have increased in the last few years. Currently, the new maximum penalty is $12,945 per serious violation and $129,000 per violation after willful or repeated violations.

3. Clean, Clean, Clean

Along with proper dust extraction, you should be taking extra caution when cleaning up before and after each job. Does your project require more than a day’s work? Be sure to sweep and mop where necessary and put away all equipment to avoid tripping hazards come morning. The equipment and machinery itself should also be cleaned regularly to maintain operation efficiency and enable a longer lifespan. Additionally, when using grinders, consider attaching a dust shroud that will connect to your vacuum so you may adequately prevent dust from leaving the vacuum and effectively save time and boost efficiency.

4. Use Modern Equipment

While no equipment is perfect or failsafe, modern surface preparation equipment is designed to meet the specifications necessary for safe operation. They are also designed to assist you in being more efficient on the job. Up to date burnishers, for example, may include floating brush skirts built to contain dust. And grinders are available that have hermetically sealed grinding heads for complete dust-containment.

Note also that propane-powered machinery may come with the option for an emission monitoring system add-on for monitoring pollutant emission rates. When it comes time to rent or purchase, be sure to check that there are proper guards in place to protect body parts. Finally, don’t forget to follow manufacturer guidelines and recommendations when operating equipment.

Surface Prep Equipment for Rent or Purchase

As a full-service sales and rental facility, Runyon Surface Prep provides an array of equipment fit for the needs of your project. From ride-on floor scrapers for commercial floor removal to hand grinders for a simple prep and polish, our catalog is vast with products necessary for every stage and complexity of surface preparation. We also offer technical training on polishing, concrete repair, floor coatings, and much more. Give us a call or use the online contact form to learn more.