Concrete workers understand that while concrete is used everywhere, from private homes to modern roadways, the material itself creates many hazards.
More than 250,000 people work in concrete manufacturing. Out of these workers, over 28,000 people are injured every year, which equals a little over 10%. Having a checklist to follow can help you and the people you work with eliminate the guesswork from staying protected on site. In turn, allowing you to finish the job quickly, efficiently, and (most importantly) safely.
We recommend you pay close attention to personal protection equipment (PPE) best suited for concrete dust and wet concrete. Here is a little more insight into these areas:
Safety from Concrete Dust
Concrete dust has causes harm to three major areas: the eyes, skin, and lungs. A good safety checklist protects all three.
The eyes need to be protected from any kind of abrasive dust, but especially concrete, which can cause burns if left unwashed.
- Wear eye protection anytime concrete dust is present and goggles in very dusty areas, regardless of whether you are working directly with concrete at the time.
- Check to make sure safety glasses are clean and clear of any dust before wearing.
- Contact lenses should be avoided unless wearing indirect ventless goggles.
While momentary exposure to dry concrete dust doesn’t typically cause harm to healthy, unbroken skin, it is abrasive and can further irritate any cuts, scrapes, or rashes. There is a small amount of chromium in cement, which can cause some people who regularly work with concrete to develop an allergy. This allergy can range from a mild rash to severe ulcers, and worsen over time.
The worst risk related to getting concrete dust on the skin is that the concrete dust will mix with sweat or other moisture on the body to become wet concrete.
- Long sleeves, full-length pants, and gloves are important for reducing skin exposure to concrete dust.
- Keep any broken or damaged skin completely covered when working with concrete.
- Wash your hands and face before eating, drinking, smoking, or using the toilet.
Concrete dust contains silica. Inhaling a small amount of silica causes irritation to the nose, mouth, and throat, as well as causes difficulty breathing. Inhaling large amounts of silica (or even small amounts repeatedly over a period of years) can lead to silicosis, a disease that causes scarring in the lungs. Some cement workers also develop a respiratory allergy to chromium found in cement, leading to occupational asthma and sometimes lung cancer.
- Take precautions to reduce concrete dust in the air, and work in well-ventilated areas.
- If in a situation where large amounts of concrete dust are inevitable, wear respiratory protection.
- Only eat in dust-free areas.
Safety from Wet Concrete
When concrete becomes wet, it transforms from mildly irritating into a highly alkaline material that can burn through flesh in a matter of hours.
When wet concrete touches healthy skin for a brief moment and then washed off, there is typically no reaction. Serious burns tend to occur when concrete is trapped against the skin for a longer period of time, often underneath clothing. Ironically enough, many concrete burns occur when an individual is actually wearing protective gear, but the gear is not appropriate for the job, worn out, or worn incorrectly.
- Long sleeves and pants are a must when working with concrete, and should be tucked correctly into gloves and boots.
- Make sure that boots are waterproof, in good repair, and at least as high as the concrete is deep.
- Gloves should be waterproof and alkali resistant.
MCR Safety’s Grippaz disposable gloves are tough gloves and excellent for keeping wet concrete off your hands!
- Keep all protective gear that has come into contact with concrete separate from everyday clothes, upholstery, etc.
- If kneeling on or near concrete, use knee pads.
The UT38JH is knee pad compatible, an excellent addition for construction and concrete workers kneeling down!
While concrete burns may take hours to develop on most exposed skin, the eyes are extremely sensitive. Serious damage can occur in a very short amount of time.
- Wear eye protection when working with wet cement.
- Always know where you can flush your eyes in case contact occurs. Flush with clean, cool water for 20 minutes and call 911 immediately.
Safety Checklist for Managers
While individual safety is one thing, ensuring the safety of an entire crew is another. OSHA has many helpful checklists, but here are some key things to look out for:
- Has everyone been trained in working safely with and around concrete? This includes apprentices and new workers as well as those not working directly with concrete but who will be in the area.
- Does everyone have the appropriate safety equipment? Does it fit correctly? Are there spares on hand in case someone’s gear becomes contaminated?
- Are there appropriate first aid supplies on hand to deal with potential concrete injuries? This includes pH neutral soap, clean towels, and several gallons of clean water for flushing.
- Are the people onsite trained in responding to concrete-specific injuries? General first aid training will often cover treatment for thermal burns, but not chemical burns. Responding incorrectly to an injury can lead to further injuries that might otherwise have been less serious.
Concrete Safety Is Not Complicated, but It Is Serious
Taking the time to go through and make sure you have the right equipment, the right knowledge, and the right people increases the chances you will never have to deal with serious illness or concrete-related injuries. Rushing through safety checks and trainings might save a few minutes here and there, but this can lead to lost time and productivity in the long run, as well as damaging your reputation as a responsible provider of concrete services.
Be sure to check out our concrete section where we breakdown the PPE workers need when facing a multitude of concrete hazards.
If you are looking to up your safety game with top-quality protective gear, you have come to the right place. MCR Safety has 45 years of experience in the industry, and always keeps up on the latest safety standards. Ready to get started with serious personal protection equipment for you and your people? Let’s talk. For more information, browse our website, request a catalog, find a distributor, or give us a call at 800-955-6887.
We Protect People!