American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo, June 1-6, 2002, San Diego, California. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2002 Jun; :55
Exposure to silica-containing dust has been measured at high levels for workers who sand drywall. For many years, vacuum attachments that effectively protect against dust exposure have been available, and yet anecdotal evidence suggests that they are not usually used. Surveys of contractors and drywall finishers were conducted in order to identify real and perceived barriers to the more widespread use of vacuum attachments. Survey samples were drawn from lists of drywall contractors and finishers in twelve district councils and seven locals of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades in eleven states in the West, Midwest, and East. There were 88 responses to the contractor survey and 214 responses to the finisher survey. The results suggest that well over half of contractors recognize respiratory problems as a hazard of drywall finishing. While most finishers (57 percent) and contractors (75 percent) have at least some experience with vacuum attachments, the survey shows that they are virtually never used for the purpose of protecting workers from dust. Rather, they are used primarily to protect electronic equipment and building owners' personnel. Although attachments are used on only a small fraction of jobs, 62 percent of finishers say they never use respirators. The primary complaint about vacuum attachments is that they make jobs take longer and cost more. Yet the results suggest that contractors are not always able to charge more for using them, even in cases where the building owner requires it. Some contractor responses point to the possibility that more thorough training of workers in the use of vacuum attachments might eliminate the productivity and quality problems that many say they experience.