Three Ways Pneumatic Jackhammers Are More Dangerous Than You Think
By Chris Galloway
If you don’t see them then you certainly hear them; at every construction job site, the jackhammer’s raucous hammering can be heard above the normal boisterousness of a busy site. And if you’ve ever seen one in operation then you’re probably aware of the hazard they pose — they’re designed to violently pulverize rock, stone and concrete. They could do a number on someone if used improperly. But even with safe operation, the pneumatic jackhammer poses dangers that are as subtle as they are hazardous.
Air Compressors Are Dangerous for Many Reasons
Don’t be fooled — the air compressor needed to operate a heavy-duty jackhammer is not the same variety you have in your garage to top off the air in your car tires. They’re big, heavy and treacherous. But their dangers aren’t always obvious (check out the convoluted list of OSHA safety precautions for working with compressed air.)
Heavy Lifting & Towing
With air compressors, you need to constantly load and unload them from your vehicle if you’re on an active job site. Depending on the size of the pneumatic, you might have to tow the compressor to the site. And make no mistake — air compressors are HEAVY. There’s no easy way to go about moving an air compressor and you’re going to feel the burden sooner rather than later.
Air compressors will get hot on their own after prolonged use. But many other things on a job site produce substantial heat as well. Ensure you keep your air compressor well away from any external heat source — overheating your air compressor could cause it to ignite and even explode.
Whole Body Vibration
Most experts agree that “whole-body vibration” is largely a consequence of vehicle usage in the construction industry. But some research is pointing to jackhammer usage as a supplemental factor. Whole-body vibration is a hazard that is not yet thoroughly researched. Scientists simply don’t know what the long-term consequences are, but they suspect that the cost of whole-body vibration is high. At the very least, chronic back pain and compressed discs can be a byproduct of whole-body vibration. At its worst, there could be neurological implications. Just like concussions and football, there may come a time when we look back and shake our heads at the damage we did to our bodies due to ignorance.
You Need Jackhammers On-Site, So What Can You Do?
A lot of the construction industry turns a blind eye to the hazards of the trade. Many of the things we do in the field are considered necessary evils in the name of building infrastructure for future generations. And the sad truth is, constructions crews were seen as a largely expendable workforce up until contemporary times. So, what can you do when you need jackhammers at almost every job site?
Gas Power is the Future
Much like the oil barons of old, we say “gas is the future!”…of jackhammers that is. Pneumatic technology hasn’t changed in over a century and gas-powered devices are the new wave. Pneumatic jackhammers were an important facet of our past. But with efficient, gas-powered jackhammers on the horizon, we can see a future that makes breaking concrete, stone and rock a much safer part of day-to-day construction. Are you on board?
Chris Galloway is the owner of US Hammer Jackhammers and Post drivers. A lifelong contractor, he runs US Hammer and Pioneer Machinery, his rental equipment company, from Woodland, Calif.