When working stone, large amounts of hazardous dust is produced. Stone dust often contains silica which, when inhaled, causes irritation and irreversible damage to the tissue of the lungs. Certain types of stone contain very high amounts of silica, and the smallest particles of this are the most dangerous. Airborne silica is referred to as RCS (Respirable Crystalline Silica), and inhalation of it should be avoided at all costs.
AES have previously installed systems to deal with RCS in the Historic Scotland stone masonry workshop. These systems, which consisted of a centralised extraction setup, complete with mobile arms, allows the masons to chisel and shape stone – with dust being collected by arms posed close to the stone.
A slide valve next to the arm system can be opened, powering a length of vacuum hose, which the masons use to extract heavier particles directly from their work-pieces. These systems proved very effective, and allow the masonry students to work safely and uninterrupted.
The amount of dust created when shaping the stone by hand was moderate, meaning that an LEV extraction arm worked effectively. Cutting stone with a motorised grinder however, creates such a large amount of RCS, that an extraction arm would not be effective. In order to allow this process to safely occur within the masonry workshop, AES and Italian company GEF worked together to create a ‘Stone Cutting Booth’, which would allow the user to cut stone inside of a free-standing structure, extracting created stone dust away from the operator.
The booth, which has recently been installed and commissioned in the workshop, draws air over a series of pleated filters, capturing the stone dust. Powerful fans ensure that large amounts of the dust is drawn into the filter housing. When the system is powered off, the filter housing doors close and compressed air is blasted through the filters, causing the stone dust to drop down into collection drawers at the bottom of the unit. These drawers can then be emptied safely using the centralised vacuum system present at the establishment (other filtered portable hi-vacuums will also help achieve this). The booth also features a high powered strip light, giving the user a clear view of the stone they are working on.
The below video shows an apprentice stonemason cutting through Buff Sandstone, Wet Sandstone and Portland Limestone. The system is effective for use will many types of stone, even heavier stone types such as granite.