For the concrete contractor, World of Concrete is the place to be. With companies showing off new and updated tools and technologies, as well as materials and machinery, it’s the perfect place to get hands-on with products from every category.
Decorative concrete was a huge topic this year, which goes along with President of Lithko Contracting Rob Strobel’s point that concrete is becoming a finished product. As far as machinery goes, attendees noticed a higher number of international companies making the trip out.
During outside demonstrations and conversations with long-time exhibitors, two major topics stood out in tools and tech: OSHA’s new crystalline silica dust regulations and the adoption of technology reaching smaller companies and all generations.
Power tool companies continue to move toward a cordless job site—that’s no passing trend. But the upcoming OSHA regulation seemed to take precedent for most of these companies.
On June 23, 2017, OSHA’s crystalline silica dust regulation will go into effect. The new rule “reduces the permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica to 50 mg per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift,” as stated by OSHA. Bosch put these numbers into perspective in their press release, explaining “this is 20X smaller than a single grain of salt.”
Both Bosch and DeWalt demonstrated their hollowed drill bits and dust extraction systems that make reducing the amount of silica dust on a job site seamless. Even newcomer to the concrete world, Skilsaw Power Tools, recognized the importance of implementing features that would reduce dust exposure.
“A big portion of cutting concrete or any stone material is dust,” said Craig Hanba, group brand manager at Skilsaw. “So [we have] two types of dust management systems integrated into the [Medusaw]: a water-feed system … and dust collection via vacuum.”
Brad Hammock, former OSHA attorney and principal at Jackson Lewis PC, agrees with power tool companies helping their customers prep for the new rule, even though it’s currently being challenged in the courts and the current administration wishes to decrease regulations. “There’s not going to be a decision on this rule by June 23, 2017, … so you’ve got to start thinking about being compliant,” he told a room full of safety directors at the MCAA Safety Conference. “You can’t assume the rule’s not going to be there or anything like that.”
According to OSHA’s fact sheet on crystalline silica, the material has been classified as a human lung carcinogen. “Additionally, breathing crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis, which in severe cases can be disabling, or even fatal,” the sheet states.
So whatever the future holds for the new regulation, it’s safe to say companies will continue focusing on the health and productivity aspects of decreasing silica dust on the job site.
Over the years, we’ve increasingly heard how the industry is starting to adopt new technologies. Nothing new there. However, long-time exhibitors have noticed a shift in who and how many people know about the existing technologies.
“That trend that the ‘old person’ on the job site’s not going to use [software]—that’s over now,” said Bassem Hamdy, VP of marketing at Procore. “If you went to a Procore booth three years ago, you’d have a lot of folks saying, ‘my 60-year-old superintendent isn’t going to use this stuff.’ Now we have 60-year-old superintendents showing 23-year-old newbies how to use the software.”
Dennis Stejskal, VP of strategy for Sage Technologies in North America, said it’s no longer just large firms adopting tech solutions. “More smaller companies continue to realize the value of technologies,” he said. “They say, ‘That’s just what I need. That’s just what I need.’ It’s been out there for years, [but they’re now] starting to realize the value.”
Exhibitors have also noticed a rise in the knowledge contractors have of existing technologies. “In the past, we’ve seen a lot of curiosity and ‘show me what you have’ and maybe they’re on the fence still. [This] year’s show, we’re noticing a lot of people saying, ‘I want to see this. Show me how it works. Show me how you’re different from other companies,’” said Charity Arouzola, senior marketing program manager at On Center. Consumers now know what they’re looking for, and they’re going to World of Concrete to test out the technologies.
Solutions in tech and surrounding the problem of crystalline silica dust will continue to be important topics of discussion in concrete. The question is how long the industry will take to adopt them as it moves forward. Based on Hamby’s statement, it appears adoption could be ramping up.