Comercial floor wax + buffing = sick?

I’ve been working as a janitor in a grocery store and I am required to run a buffer/burnisher (300 RPM, 3M pads, propane) every night. I know the buffer kicks up a LOT of dust, I can knock a whole pile of it from the bottom of the buffer, the pad and the filter on top gets really clogged after 4 hours. My question is, is the dust harmful? The company I work for is not very reliable about providing MSDSs for the chemicals I use, so I’m not sure who makes the floor wax. If there is a health hazard, am I (as the operator) the only one who should be concerned, or is there a risk to the people elsewhere in the store (customers, store employees)?

I searched on Google and found nothing relating to illness’.

If the company refuses to provide the relevant MSDS upon request, you need to contact your local OSHA office and file a complaint. At the very least, inhaling particluate matter isn’t very good for your lungs, and they ought to supply dust masks for you to wear. You can find information on contacting OSHA here.

I agree with Q.E.D., mostly. The dust a buffer kicks up is a mix of the floor finish and tiny bits of the polyester buffing pad. Junk like that, once inhaled, stays in your lungs. It may not be poisonous, but an alveolus (tiny air sac) full of crud stops being useful to you. Get a serious filter mask; if your boss won’t get you one, buy one for yourself. It could cost as much as $25, but it’s cheaper than lungs that don’t work.

Now, OSHA and MSDS’s. I don’t know how big your company is, but if it’s small, it might not be big enough to fall under OSHA’s tent. In addition, budget cuts have left the agency without enough inspectors to check out all the complaints they get. The overworked enforcers concentrate on bigger companies that generate lots of complaints, instead of you. Material Safety Data Sheets are useful sometimes, but I think if you look up floor finishes (they don’t call 'em waxes anymore,) the MSDS will tell you about safe application of the stuff, safe disposal of spills, and the vapor it makes when it’s drying. It may not even touch on buffer dust.

The propane-powered buffer motor may run cleaner than a lawnmower, but it is still like running a big lawnmower inside a closed building. You’re chuffing out unburned hydrocarbons, particulate soot, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and a fine selection of lesser pollutants and Bits o’ Buff Pad.