As with most products used in construction, there is always the potential for injury or illness when you don’t take the proper precautions. This is true with concrete and cement. Potential hazards for employees working with these products include:
- Eye, skin and respiratory tract irritation from exposure to cement dust.
- Eye contamination can cause redness, chemical burns and even blindness.
- Skin irritation may be anything from contact dermatitis, allergic reactions, thickening or cracking of the skin to severe skin damage from chemical burns.
- Silica exposure can lead to lung injuries including silicosis and lung cancer.
- Overexertion and awkward postures.
- Slips, trips and falls.
- Chemical burns from wet cement.
There are steps you can take to prevent these job-related injuries.
- Wear the appropriate personal protective equipment when working with concrete and cement. This would include:
- Alkali-resistant gloves;
- Long-sleeve shirts and full-length trousers (pull sleeves down over your gloves and tuck your pants inside your boots. Duct-tape at the top to keep mortar and concrete out of your boots and off your skin);
- Waterproof boots high enough to prevent concrete from flowing in when you must stand in fresh concrete;
- Suitable respirator protective equipment such as a P, N or R 95 respirator when you can’t avoid cement dust;
- Suitable eye protection where mixing, pouring or other activities may endanger eyes (minimum – safety glasses with side shields or goggles. Under extremely dusty conditions use tight-fitting, unvented or indirectly vented goggles. Don’t wear contact lenses when handling cement or cement products.)
- Where possible, wet cut rather than dry cut masonry products.
- Mix dry cement in well-ventilated areas.
- Do not ride on or work under concrete buckets.
- When kneeling on fresh concrete, use a dry board or waterproof kneepads to protect knees from water that can soak through fabric.
- Do not wear jewelry. Wet cement can collect under jewelry and cause skin irritation.
- Remove wet, cement-contaminated clothing quickly and wash the skin immediately with large amounts of cool, clean water.
- Don’t wash your hands with water from buckets used for cleaning tools.
- Wash hands and face before eating, drinking, smoking or using the toilet, and before you leave the site to go home.
- Change your shoes and clothes before getting into your vehicle to go home.
- If you do come in contact with wet or dry cement:
- Immediately wash the affected area with cold water. Wash the eyes with cold tap water for at least 15 minutes before going to the hospital.
- Flush and cover open sores with suitable dressings.
- Report chemical burns or cement-related dermatitis to your supervisor.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Think smart and stay safe.