The imperial vastness of late Roman architecture was made possible by the invention of concrete.
~ Iain McGilchrist
The Romans understood and valued concrete’s strength and durability and used it to build out their vast empire. Roman builders worked with concrete and understood the physical challenges and demands of working with this versatile but rough building material. Yes, concrete's density and strength have made it a go-to material for centuries. It is the essential ingredient that makes our modern world possible. Without concrete, the world would look unimaginably different. Concrete is everywhere!
The above image shows how concrete production impacts numerous areas of any economy. Upstream, workers produce cement at plants; then this vital material works its way into innumerable uses, from poured concrete to concrete plates.
On this industry page, we cover a wide range of concrete-related topics, from an overview of the industry itself to employment opportunities and the general activities conducted by concrete workers to the PPE to keep them safe on the job.
You may opt to continue reading to learn more about the industry and daily concrete work activities, or you can click the hazard warning icon below and be taken directly to the safety section for this industry, its suggested PPE, and a list of potential hazards.
Click to jump directly to the Safety, Hazards and PPE section.
Prepare to explore the art of concrete! We're about to highlight everything you could want to know about concrete, cement, and those who work with these essential materials.
As mentioned earlier, concrete's history dates back to ancient Roman times, with evidence of concrete mortar being used in 200 B.C. to attach stones. Unfortunately, the secrets of concrete were lost when Rome fell in 476 A.D. to Germanic tribes. Concrete was not rediscovered as a building material until 1824, when English cement manufacturer Joseph Aspdin developed Portland cement. This product would go on to form the modern concrete industry and completely change the construction world.
Today's businesses that pour, build, and finish concrete foundations are classified under NAICS code 23811. This coded number allows the government to classify all the business activities within this sector, helping workers and suppliers better understand the industry.
According to IBISWorld, the concrete industry produces over $57 billion in economic activity each year, with over 53,000 concrete businesses operating in the U.S. Here are some of the industry's top segments:
What is the difference between concrete and cement? While they are often used synonymously, they are actually different products. Cement, as shown above, is a crushed powder made of limestone and clay. Cement is an ingredient of concrete, making up roughly 10 to 15 percent of concrete mix. The amount of cement used in the mix will impact the final concrete structure's strength and durability.
In addition to cement, concrete is also made up of other materials, including a fine aggregate, typically sand, or a coarse aggregate, typically rock or gravel. These materials are then mixed with water and chemical additives to begin the hydration process. Once the water is mixed in, the clock starts ticking, and a worker has approximately two hours to form the final look of the concrete before it is set!
Looking around, you are likely to spot concrete somewhere in your daily life. This is because concrete is essentially everywhere and found in bridges, walls, car garages, and warehouse floors. Its applications are endless, as it can be poured to create all types of shapes.
Here are some of the most common uses for concrete:
Each of the structures mentioned above is built in different environments, which means not one form of concrete will suffice for all. Also, some final products require different shapes or finishes, each requiring different grades of concrete.
Here are the different types of concrete used across the industry:
Air-Entrained Learning mixed on the job, this concrete contains air pockets that allow water to expand during freezes without causing cracking.
Asphalt a mixture of aggregates, asphalt binder, and additives, asphalt is a popular concrete for roads, parking lots, and other paving projects.
Glass Cement a binding blend used to affix glass to metal; this lightweight cement acts as a glue.
High-Density using heavyweight aggregates, this concrete, as its name suggests, has a higher than average density, which comes in handy for stabilization.
High-Performance offering low shrinkage, minimal permeability, and high modulus elasticity, this concrete resists loads that your everyday concrete can't withstand.
Permeable for use in rainy or wet environments, this pervious concrete allows water to pass directly through it.
Precast cast before arriving at its final destination, this concrete comes ready to install on the job site.
Prestressed applying predetermined compression during production, this concrete’s overall tensile strength is enhanced.
Self-Consolidating when surface smoothness is required, this fluid mixture is used because of its flow and consolidation properties.
Stamped patterned to resemble common textures, such as brick, this concrete is often used for patios, driveways, and sidewalks.
Ultra-High Performance the most recent concrete innovation , this concrete is used primarily in bridge construction, precast piles, and blast applications.
Concrete blocks, also referred to as cement or cinder blocks, are manufactured using cement, aggregate, and water. They are made into all types of shapes, sizes, and weights, making them indispensable for workers forming a structure. They can be joined together using mortar, making them a preferred material across the construction industry.
Depending on the structure being built, different types of concrete blocks are used. Here is a breakdown of the different types:
immensely strong and durable, these blocks are used primarily to build columns, piers, beam foundations, and retaining walls.
made with a hollow core area, these blocks are advantageous to builders because of their reduced weight, lower cost, and better insulation properties. They are primarily used in building non-load bearing walls. Here are all the variations of hollow blocks.
Corner – blocks join the ends of structures, typically at windows or door openings
Bullnose – a type of corner block made with a rounded edge
Lintel – made with deep grooves running across its length that can be manipulated effortlessly and provides a worker increased flexibility when constructing
Partition – used primarily to construct partition walls; its hollow area is split into two or three parts
Pillar – used when a structure’s ends are noticeable to provide a clean look
Stretcher – another type of corner block, these are set with their length parallel to wall's face and are one of the most commonly used blocks in construction
Concrete is one of the handiest and most versatile building and construction materials available, making it widely used by DIYers. Those looking to resurface their driveway, or construct a brand new patio, will most likely select concrete. However, there is a reason why professional concrete companies exist: the work can be challenging. Yet, that doesn’t deter many DIYers from trying their hand at it.
One of the best websites for DIYers looking for help with a concrete project is www.bobvila.com . Here are some of their articles around concrete:
There are tons of other articles on the subject in their How-To Center. In addition to the resources they provide, here are some common questions we know many DIYers have when using concrete:
How to drill into concrete?
You will need a special drill, especially if the concrete foundation has been around for decades. Home Depot has prepared a video that shows you how to drill into concrete safely. Don't forget to wear your safety goggles, as the dust and material will be flying!
How long does concrete take to dry?
Concrete sets hard enough for people to begin walking on it within 24 to 48 hours of the concrete being poured. Vehicles can start traveling over it within about seven days. Drying and curing times will vary depending on the mix of concrete and environmental factors, like weather.
What is concrete made of?
Concrete is made of cement, aggregate (e.g., sand or pounded stone), and Portland cement. Water is then added to start the chemical reaction of curing.
How to mix concrete?
It's not the most complicated process; it just requires some water, aggregate, and cement. However, you'll need to follow a process, as identified by the familyhandyman.
How to repair concrete cracks?
Since concrete is rigid, it can crack when under intense loads or as the ground below it shifts. Repairing those cracks quickly is essential, as water can cause even more cracks to occur. To fix a minor crack in the concrete, you'll need a chisel and a hammer to prepare the surface. Then, a flexible sealant and caulk are often used to fill in these cracks. We recommend watching this video to help aid your efforts.
How to get oil stains out of concrete?
You've probably encountered an oil stain in your garage or someone else's garage. One of the top-rated items for helping to eliminate those pesky, unsightly stains is Oil Eater. Don't forget to wear your goggles and gloves during application and clean-up!
How to build wood concrete forms?
To contain and form the concrete into the desired shape, wooden forms are often used. To determine the best way to erect the form, identify whether you're building forms for slabs or walls. For walls, we recommend reading the 6-step quick guide from wikiHow.
How to cure concrete?
Curing is the process of maintaining moisture in the concrete during the early stages of installation to gain the best results in terms of strength and performance. There are two primary ways to cure concrete, either by wet-curing or by applying a curing compound. Wet-curing is more time-consuming, but it produces the best results. Wikihow has a multi-step article on both processes, and Civil Mentors has an entire video explaining the process.
How to lay concrete?
Pouring a concrete slab is not all that difficult, but it does require specific steps, similar to mixing concrete. You'll need build the correct form, insert rebar, and smooth the finish out. With over 8 million views, you can't go wrong watching this video to help you lay a strong foundation for your project.
How much does a yard of concrete weigh?
The average concrete structure weights 4,050 lbs per cubic yard. If you know the volume, online concrete calculators will help you compute the weight.
How long does it take for concrete to cure?
It takes about 28 days for concrete to cure fully. However, forms can be removed after 48 hours, and vehicles can begin using new concrete in roughly seven days.
How much does concrete cost? Pricing depends on the size of what is being built, its thickness, and whether it will be reinforced. You're going to pay a lot more for a 20x30 slab than a 12X12 one. On average, most concretes cost anywhere from $4 to $8 a square foot.
When you examine HomeGuide’s concrete pricing guide, you can quickly see how costs can increase. A standard 4” slab costs a little over $5 per square foot. However, when you start adding in thick edges, reinforcement, or barriers, costs can quickly ascend to the $8 to $10 per square foot range. Keep in mind; pricing may fluctuate when a professional concrete contractor performs the work.
How much concrete do I need? It's an important question asked by anyone who wants to control costs and make sure enough material is purchased. The formula for understanding how much concrete is needed depends on the type of concrete used and the project's scope. To calculate costs, you will need to know the following measurements for these types of concrete projects:
thickness, width, and length
depth, width, and length
diameter and height
Once you have the measurements, you can use the Concrete Network's handy calculator . It will tell you precisely how many bags of concrete will be needed for the construction project.
Most industries typically have associations and establishments that promote all companies' general welfare and support workers operating in the industry. Established in 1904, the American Concrete Institute (ACI) is considered one of the leading associations for concrete workers. ACI represents over 30,000 members, across 120 countries, by providing educational resources, certifications, and industry-accepted standards.
The Portland Cement Association, one of the most trusted in the industry, has produced an informative video about safety around concrete. You'll want to check it out to make sure the highest safety standards are being observed on your jobsite.
All concrete associations have one thing in common: keeping concrete workers armed with the most relevant, up-to-date information possible to help them best perform their job. Many construction workers look to the above professional associations for answers.
In addition to associations, trade shows such World of Concrete (WOC) provide valuable insight into the industry. In 2019, over 60,500 people attended WOC’s show from a wide range of concrete-related activities. The concrete industry knows how to put on a show!
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are 216,910 workers finding employment in the Poured Concrete and Structure industry. However, the concrete sector covers a broad range of people. Cement masons are the primary workers operating in this industry segment, though there are numerous trades finding employment in this specific construction sub-industry. Here are the top ones:
Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers 74,110
Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Workers 1,850
Paving and Surfacing Operators 1,260
Cement Mason and Concrete Finishers
perform a vast amount of work with concrete, from pouring it to finishing it.
construct forms for pouring concrete.
Iron and Rebar Workers
position steel bars or steel mesh into concrete forms to reinforce the concrete once it’s poured.
Spread pigment, sand, or marble mixtures over finished concrete for a decorative surface appearance.
Spray concrete through a hose.
repair concrete foundations by drilling holes and injecting a mixture of cement to help stabilize the slab.
Paving and Surfacing Operators
Use machines that spread out concrete onto roads and curbs.
Each of these workers fulfills an essential role within a project. Since concrete work involves multiple types of workers, there are various types of work activities performed.
Concrete work comes in all shapes and forms, and each concrete worker performs a wide range of activities. These activities include carrying heavy tools and equipment and handling abrasive material, all of which can injure hands. We highlight this fact because many work-related injuries are caused by the tools workers use on the job.
Before any concrete foundation is set, workers handle a wide range of tools to complete the project. We highlight the most common tools workers use because many work injuries are caused by the tools used on the job.
Here is a look at some of the most common tools used by concrete workers:
A tool is pointless if it has no materials to shape or mold. Here are some of the common materials used in concrete construction:
In 2019, the BLS reported 890 injuries caused by all the different parts and materials handled in the Poured Concrete industry. The safety gear workers wear must address the different materials they will be handling and the variety of activities they will perform. If you’re handling sharp steel wires, the last thing you want is to be wearing disposable gloves.
Accidents and injuries are common across the construction industry, especially those responsible for pouring concrete, so keeping a watchful eye on the work environment is crucial. The Poured Concrete sub-industry industry ranks #5 out of 21 total construction sub-industries for injury incidents. For every 100 people finding employment in this industry, there is an injury experienced by 3.8 workers.
Here are some other stats the BLS provides that concrete workers should consider:
Out of all potential concrete hazards, wet cement causes the most hand injuries across the industry. This is because concrete is highly caustic and highly abrasive. As we mentioned above, you’re going to need some nice waterproof gloves. Skin exposed to wet concrete can receive 2nd-degree burns. Also, wet concrete can easily splash into one's eye. With these hazards, you can understand why workers want safety gear they can trust. Here are some examples of the hazards faced by those working around concrete:
Lastly, before we move on to highlight different types of PPE, here are some other articles and guides we've written on safety when working around concrete:
As mentioned above, ready-mix contractors, concrete block manufacturers, stucco contractors, demolition/repair, and concrete pumping services are the specialized segments of the concrete industry. They all have one thing in common: each requires PPE to protect their workers.
Protecting one's skin is probably the top reason workers wear PPE. Without gloves, shirts, and boots, caustic chemicals will quickly cause skin irritation and chemical burns. To combat potential injuries concrete workers may suffer, they look to MCR Safety to protect them with high-quality PPE.
Here is a broad list of various PPE that MCR Safety supplies to help concrete workers avoid injury:
We've highlighted a lot of concrete information and thrown a bunch of industry stats at you. Now, the remaining part of this page showcases some of the most common concrete hazards and different PPE options people should consider wearing while performing work with concrete. As always, our goal is to get you into the best PPE for the hazards you face. Below, we highlight some of the most common concrete hazards, along with safety product recommendations. In the event we do not cover your unique hazard, let us know. Feel free to contact us using the link at the bottom of this page. If you wish to have direct consultation, we can assist there too! All you have to do is contact us, and we will have a trained 360° Safety Specialist get in touch with you.
You might be interested in checking out our other dedicated construction sub-industry pages. Our entire construction industry home page can be found by clicking the below image.
Choosing the right gloves is a critical safety step. This is even more true for concrete workers.
Get the real stats! Learn what the top injuries are within the construction industry. Knowing is half the battle of keeping you safe.
Have you ever wondered about the history concrete? Check out our timeline that includes: Key Dates, Fun Facts, & Important Advancements in Technology
A guidebook for selecting the best quality safety gear for working with concrete.
Understanding the basics of chemical burn prevention is paramount to finding the right safety equipment for protecting concrete laborers against unnecessary injuries.
Get industry leading information for what products work best when dealing with concrete in the summer heat.
Find the right MCR Safety product that protects you against these common hazards.
One of the most abrasive materials one can handle is a concrete block. We’ve got your hands covered with the most advanced abrasive coatings.
The most common cause of hand injuries is blunt trauma. Overall, 76% of all injuries are the result of cut and crush. Concrete workers, especially those in Demolition and Repair, face a multitude of close quarter environments resulting in pinch point injuries.Learn More About Crush and Impact Protection
Summer months mean hot working conditions for construction workers. Keep cool and safe this summer.
Flying debris and dust is everywhere on a jobsite causing a loss of visibility. Cement dust causes the most common eyewear injury across the concrete industry. Let us help keep your eyes fixed on the job at hand.Learn More About Impared Vision Protection
Ever come across some jagged rebar? We figured the answer was yes. Over 18% of all hand injuries are from cuts and lacerations. Construction workers come into constant contact with rough, sharp and jagged surfaces.Learn More About Sharp Objects Protection
71% of the earth is water. Combine this with wet cement and concrete pouring; you will most definitely need some liquid protection. You might want to consider some waterproof gloves and rain gear.Learn More About Wet Environment Protection
Wet Cement is the #1 cause of hand injury in the concrete industry. We have featherweight and waterproof gloves, and boots you have to see!Learn More About Wet Cement Protection
MCR Safety manufactures and supplies Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Simply put, WE PROTECT PEOPLE! We are known world-wide for our extensive product line depth surrounding gloves, glasses, and garments spanning across numerous industries. We offer the total package of safety gear encompassing industrial gloves, safety glasses, protective garments, welding gear, industrial boots, Flame Resistant (FR) gear, face shields, and much more. From a glove standpoint alone, MCR Safety manufacturers and supplies over 1,000 different style gloves. Here are some of the many reasons MCR Safety is your go to source for PPE:
MCR Safety is recognized as a global manufacturer stretching across six countries, with both distribution and manufacturing facilities. Our core competency and specialty is manufacturing and supplying protective gloves, glasses, and garments. The information shown and provided on MCR Safety’s website, its safety articles, industry resource pages, highlighted hazards and safety equipment should be used only as a general reference tool and guide. The end user is solely responsible for determining the suitability of any product selection for a particular application. MCR Safety makes no guarantee or warranty (expressed or implied) of our products’ performance or protection for particular applications.