Many of the best tools in the concrete and masonry business were invented by a contractor who had a need and found a solution. “I was working with my brother Joel [as a masonry contractor] and we were trying to put together our dust control program,” says Paul Guth, president of iQ Power Tools. “But we couldn’t find what we needed so we decided to adapt our own tools. We wanted to do dry cutting so we developed our own dust collection tool to use in our business. We took it to our first trade show (World of Concrete) in 2004 and sold machines right off the floor so we knew we had something.”
Even before OSHA changed the requirements for controlling respirable silica dust in 2017, contractors knew that protecting their workers from dust was important. Inhaling the very fine silica dust created when cutting concrete or masonry causes irreversible lung damage and can lead to silicosis. Guth explains that “the dust you breathe into your lungs gets trapped by a little mucus pod that then creates a little scar tissue and you just lost that piece of lung. The more you breathe that dust, you continue to lose lung capacity. If a guy starts doing that when he’s 19 years old, by the time he’s 30 he can have significantly reduced lung capacity. That’s the simple message I want workers to understand: when you’re 30 years old do you still want to be able to run around with your kids?”
There are various ways of controlling the dust generated during cutting but many rely on water. “Dry cutting has a lot of advantages, says Guth. “If you’re indoors or in Michigan in the winter, wet cutting is not an option. Here in California, it depends on the kind of project. We were doing a big jail project and the specification said that if we wet-cut a CMU we had to wait 24 hours to install it. To be 24 hours ahead on every cut is a real challenge so we decided we needed to dry cut and that meant we needed a dust control system. So a masonry saw was one of the first tools we made. We just built it in our shop and used it.”
Today, all iQ’s tools incorporate a dry cyclonic dust extractor system. “When we are developing a tool, whether a concrete saw or a tile saw, we always integrate the dust collection so the end user can just turn it on and use it. He doesn’t have to go find a dust hood and a dust extractor or the adapters or anything,” Guth says.
iQ’s tools meet the OSHA requirements but Guth’s team doesn’t focus on that. “We never used that as a scare tactic. We met the requirements even before the new regs. The rules are there to protect people. We were involved as they were being revised. My brother went to Washington and testified. We were big proponents of leaving the regulations where they were and just truly enforce them. Bu they ended up changing things and it’s more complicated but also more comprehensive. It has good and bad points. Most contractors try to meet the regulations. It depends on the size of the contractor and who they are working for. Larger general contractors, their insurance companies are telling them to comply, so they are pushing that down to the mason contractors and the concrete contractors. They need to understand the regulations, put the training in place, and make sure they are using the right tools. There’s training involved and having a competent person to manage the risk. From a contractor’s point of view, it’s a pain, but in the end it’s the right thing to do to protect our workers.”
iQ continues to thrive during the pandemic by innovating. Only now, in addition to building new tools, it’s in how they communicate with their dealers and customers. Since bringing people into their headquarters in California became impossible, they came up with what they call the iQ Virtual Visitor, a cord-free webcast studio on wheels. “It’s completely mobile,” says Guth, so we can use it to make Zoom calls anywhere in the world. We can bring in, virtually, 15 or 20 of our dealers or customers and do live demonstrations, training sessions, step-by-step maintenance procedures, or take them for a tour of our warehouse. A year ago we wouldn’t have thought of doing this but it’s definitely something we’re going hold on to after the pandemic is over. It’s a very effective way to communicate with a lot of people.”
Sarah Hurtado, iQ’s marketing manager, adds, "iQ believes in personal relationships. There are actually real people 'behind the tools. We care about both our customers and our customers' customers. We plan to continue providing hours of educational and interesting opportunity videos during this time of physical distance. The iQ Virtual Visitor is an easy and powerful way for our customers to see key features and benefits of some of our tools and the many benefits they offer.”