Concrete is the second most used material on Earth, trailing only water. Because of this and our commitment to safety, we find it important to highlight concrete safety tips. Here are some vital practices that every company should follow to stay safe when working with concrete:
Use Proper PPE To Protect Yourself
PPE is one of the most important elements of safety on any jobsite, but it is especially important when you are working with concrete. Make sure to protect your skin at all times by wearing gloves. Water-proof and alkali-resistant gloves are recommended. A long-sleeved shirt, full-length pants, and shatterproof eye protection are also important when working with wet concrete. If you are standing in the wet concrete, wear water-proof boots that are up high enough on your ankle so that the concrete cannot flow into your shoes. You will also want to always wear a hard hat, especially when pouring concrete in an interior area where the ceiling is not yet complete. Proper ear protection, proper footwear, and face masks or ventilators are also important PPE.
Take Care When Removing Concrete PPE
Be careful when removing concrete PPE, as wet cement could get on your skin. Did you know that wet cement is the #1 cause of occupational skin disease in the United States? To learn more, watch this video, which includes additional concrete safety tips. Concrete burns are a serious and common injury when working with concrete. It is important to always be aware that concrete can find its way into your personal equipment such as gloves, boots and sleeves. To avoid getting burned, remove any clothing splattered in concrete and wash the affected area immediately, not in the next hour. You will then want to keep an eye on your skin to see if a burn is developing. Be careful when you are removing your protective clothing and wash your hands before and after. You should also store your concrete-soiled clothes separately from other clothes and tools. If possible, shower before leaving the jobsite so you can change into new clothes. This will decrease your exposure to crystalline silica, which we discuss more in depth below:
The Dangers of Crystalline Silica
Crystalline silica are very small particles, nearly 100 times smaller than the sand we find on beaches. These particles are present in concrete and other building materials. Even with proper safety precautions, workers who are exposed to crystalline silica may still inhale the dangerous particles.
To be safe, warn workers and mark boundaries of work areas with crystalline silica. It is a best practice to do this because when large amounts of crystalline silica are inhaled, workers are at risk of developing a long-term lung disease known as silicosis. Silicosis can be fatal. The CDC reports that 1,167 people died from silicosis from 2005-2014. Make sure to educate your workers about the risks and harm of crystalline silica by providing proper training that includes information about health effects, work practices, and protective equipment for respirable crystalline silica. You can also learn more about the standards OSHA requires here.
In addition to educating and training your workers about crystalline silica, you should also provide those exposed to crystalline silica with periodic medical examination. One of the best ways to prevent the inhalation of crystalline silica is to keep dust out of the air. When you are purchasing equipment look to see if there is a dust control, make sure to always maintain and use the dust control system, and if the dust control system is not working do not use the equipment. Using the nearby exhaust ventilation system can help to keep dust from being released into the air. When you are sawing concrete, you can use a saw that provides water to the blade, as this will make the dust particles wet and prevent it from being released into the air.
To learn more about preventing the inhalation of crystalline silica watch this video.
Some Items Should Be Avoided When Working With Concrete
When working with concrete, steer clear of using tobacco products in dusty areas. BioMed Central did a report in 2018 that found silica-exposed smokers had elevated mortality from non-malignant respiratory disease and lung cancers in comparison to non-smokers. The use of tobacco in dusty areas may leave you more likely to inhale crystalline silica. To proactively prevent the inhalation of crystalline silica you should do air monitoring to measure worker’s exposure to crystalline silica, as well as to select appropriate engineering controls and respiratory protection. You should perform air monitoring to measure the effectiveness of controls, collecting and analyzing air samples according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Method Nos. 7500 and 7602.