Information and Misinformation
Unfortunately, since the introduction of more stringent dust control regulations, there has been a lot of information and misinformation bandied about. Some of the questions I have been asked include ‘would I be compliant if I simply put an M Class filter into my L class vacuum?’ The answer to that one is a comprehensive ‘No’ but it can all become a bit clearer for trades if we take a look at some of the important rules and facts.
The HSE recently introduced the M-Class rating as a minimum legal requirement for construction vacs. M-Class vacs should have filters and airflow systems that allow them to reliably collect respirable dust up to 10 microns in size. This respirable dust is the most dangerous because it is so small that it can be breathed in directly to contact with the lungs, and can also float for up to 8 hours in the atmosphere. Trades of all kinds create dust, some of it less dangerous than others – but if you are cutting, sanding, drilling or even sweeping regularly as part of your trade then you need to have, as a minimum, an M-Class vacuum to accompany you on site.
However, if you take a look at the range of vacs on the market, they are not cheap – £600 - £700 is not uncommon. So, the cost of compliance can be high – and this is where the V-Tuf M can be a lifesaver. This little machine is lightweight and compact and costs around £160 inc VAT.
Although it is compact and therefore, by definition, cannot collect as much dust as the more expensive and bigger ones, the V-Tuf M is a fully certified M-Class machine that has been developed in conjunction with HSE managers, the HSE, Occupational Hygiene specialists, and trades. After using it for several days on site and in my workshop I found there were lots of things to like about it. I had several tradespeople looking at it quizzically, but some were left contemplating after I told them the price and also about their responsibilities for dust collection.
I hate to hark on about the price, but it is competitive enough for trades to buy one for compliance sake, but having then used it, they will become familiar with higher levels of dust collection and workplace safety.
But it is time for a closer look at the machine so that we can begin to appreciate its abilities. Although it stands around 42cm high on its four wheels, (two rear fixed and two castoring front wheels), it comes with 3 metres of 32mm diameter bright yellow flexible dust collection hose and 5 metres of equally yellow cord, so it has enough reach for most trade users. There is a big carry handle on top of the motor housing around which to wind the cord in transit, and I found that I tended to wind the flexible hose around the vac body and stick the nozzle into one of the accessory slots for easy fitting into my boot.
Both domestic and trade users will be happy to note that you get a floor cleaning set with carpet and floor heads, and there is also a crevice and brush tool and a stepped nozzle adaptor for connection to power tools.
What Goes on Under the Bonnet?
Looking inside the collection body of the vac by releasing the three spring clips, there is the all-important HEPA 13 filter attached to the motor housing. This filter is attached with a wingnut making it easy to remove for replacement or cleaning. This is clearly a very important stage in the M-Class rating of the V-Tuf M, as is the fine paper collection bag attached to the vacuum inlet nozzle. This bag has a flexible rubber seal on it for trapping fine particles, while the HEPA filter prevents the fine dust up to 10 microns from escaping into the air where the user might breathe it in.
Other requirements for fine dust collection are the monitoring systems that allow the user to ensure that he/she is complying with the M-Class ratings. These include an extraction velocity monitor on top of the motor that shows red if the extraction velocity drops below the M-Class standard of above 20 litres per second. Then it is time to clean the filter by using the filter shaker switch. Or it may be time to remove and wash the filter to extend its filtering life.
Being quite low and squat in shape and with its four wheels the V-Tuf M is easy to move about and with a weight of around 7Kg (empty) it is easy to lift into a van or boot. I was also impressed by how quiet it is even compared with my well-known brand domestic vacuum cleaner. It does not have that little scream that some electric motors have that put your teeth on edge. I used the machine for cleaning up cement and sand dust on my worksite as well as for extraction on my cordless circular saws. I have to say that using it with power tools was a revelation – it collected a lot more dust than I am used to with my old L-Class vac and virtually eliminated clearing up around them at the end of the day. I suppose that part of the penalty paid for a very competitive M-Class price is that there is no auxiliary plug for connecting corded power tools like sanders – but there is light on the horizon. During November the V-TUF ‘flick’ we will be launched. This is like an extension cable with the automatic switching brains in the socket head. This intelligent controller will switch your V-TUF M on and off automatically - as you use your power tool. It will retail for less than £100 including vat and will enable you to introduce automatic switching to any of your tools, not just the V-TUF.
In the very comprehensive instruction and dust control booklet included with the machine is a helpline number. From this initial contact V-Tuf is happy to take on customers’ challenges and ideas and work with them to develop solutions.
Why have one?
The V-Tuf M managed to find a place in my boot for some of the site work I have been doing recently for several reasons: - It is compact and light, it collects well and is easy to handle as well as providing the reassurance of M-Class particulate collection. And the price for using one won’t make the credit card creak.
Aimed at: Pros and amateurs who need reliable M-Class dust extraction.
Pros: Affordable and compact entry into M-Class extraction.