Like all power tools, demolition hammers pose many health risks unbeknownst to their handlers. Even the most renowned industry hammers fall prey to technical malfunctions. This not only has to do with the type of demolition that’s being worked on but steps taken before any mishap can even occur. Demolishing a thick wall or removing a layer of soft cement will matter little if precaution is ignored. In turn, the main physical effects come down to noise level, the emission of vibrations, and dust.
Demolition hammers are ear-piercingly loud for two reasons. On the one hand, heavy noise resonates from the impact of the hammer (or a shovel, chisel, or pointer) against the work material. The internal explosion of the pneumatic cylinder of the hammer, on the other hand, creates the second source of noise. The first symptom of hearing loss is tinnitus. The phenomenon consists of hearing knocking or ringing in the ear that does not come from any external source. To best avoid the aftereffects, its best to use foam earplugs or hearing protection helmets.
Continuous exposure to the vibrations produced by hammer drills is a known cause of impaired blood circulation in the fingers. This condition is known as dead fingers, hand-forearm vibration syndrome, or vibration white fingers.
Likewise, the prolonged use of heavy machinery is one of the causes of secondary Reynaud’s syndrome. This disease is recognized as an occupational disease in the case of carpenters, cabinetmakers, and construction workers who suffer work accidents. Although it is not always disabling, it does affect the quality of life. In addition, the use of large jackhammers can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
To prevent these health effects, manufacturers of electric demolition hammers incorporate systems into their machines that reduce or absorb part of the vibrations. The goal of such improvements is to prevent vibration from reaching the operator.
Demolishing concrete and other building materials creates toxic dust that can end up in your lungs and cause silicosis. Silicosis is an occupational disease caused by inhalation of large amounts of silica dust. Chronic silicosis manifests itself after exposure to silica dust. It occurs even in small amounts and causes inflammation in the lungs and lymph nodes. All this, of course, makes breathing difficult.
To avoid silicosis, it’s best to use one of the following respiratory protections:
- FFP2 disposable mask
- Silicone half-mask with filter elements
- Self-contained respirator with a carbon filter
Most of these causes, however, can be avoided in the right environment and preparation, such as:
The workspace should be clear, clean, and well lit. Distractions, lack of vision, the presence of obstacles or poorly organized cables are causes of workplace accidents. In addition, demolition hammers must not be used in explosive atmospheres or in poorly ventilated spaces. Avoid use if there are flammable liquids or gases around as well.
Consider that there may be electrical conduits in the work area. Take special care to hold the hammer in well-insulated areas. That is, avoid contact with the metal pointer and other bare parts, as they could conduct electricity to the operator.
Don’t wear loose clothing. And do not wear jewelry accessories (chains, watches) that can catch the rotating parts of the machine (this is the case of the rotary hammer). Also, avoid wearing loose gloves (cotton, cloth), as they carry a risk of entrapment. Wear tight-fitting gloves (rubber, for example) instead. Equally important is adopting a comfortable posture to work. Be careful to keep your fingers, hands, and arms away from the moving parts of the hammer drill, especially when wearing cotton material clothing.