Along with quartz (crystalline silica), dry concrete contains calcium oxide. When it’s dry, calcium oxide can potentially cause respiratory irritation. The more serious hazard is when you add water to the concrete mix. When water mixes with calcium oxide, it forms calcium hydroxide, which is extremely alkaline (caustic) with a pH of 12 to 13.

Skin contact with calcium hydroxide can result in red, irritated or blistered skin. Calcium hydroxide contact can cause second- or third-degree burns that can form slowly over hours or days. Wet concrete is also hygroscopic, drawing water away from anything that holds moisture, including wet clothing or skin.

If your skin or eyes have been exposed to wet concrete, you need to take immediate action to reduce the severity of the injury:

  • Immediately wash the exposed area with clean water for approximately 20 minutes. Add vinegar to the water to help neutralize the alkalinity. Never use a water/vinegar solution to rinse the eyes.
  • Flush eyes with clean water and get immediate medical attention.
  • Remove and replace any wet PPE or clothing.
  • Wash all exposed skin areas, even if you are not aware of contact. Concrete burns can take hours to form.
  • Seek professional medical attention immediately and provide the medical personnel with the product Safety Data Sheet (SDS).


You must wear PPE to protect the skin and eyes from contact with concrete containing calcium hydroxide.

  • Safety glasses –create a barrier between your eyes and wet concrete with appropriate eye protection.
  • Chemical-resistant gloves – protect the hands with PVC, nitrile or neoprene gloves.
  • Rubber boots – prevent contact with the feet, ankles and calves. Take additional measures to prevent concrete from entering over the top of the boots.
  • Knee pads or boards – knees and lower extremities are susceptible to concrete exposure during finishing activities. Wear knee pads or use knee boards to prevent contact.

DO NOT DELAY in getting medical treatment if your skin is exposed to wet concrete. Delaying treatment can mean the difference between a mild burn and a severe injury.

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Chipping and hammering for concrete removal are common work activities in bridge work and repair. Workers use compact pneumatic chipping hammers and jackhammers to do the job. These compact battering rams pack a lot of punch, and they can be dangerous if you don’t use them properly. Here are some common-sense tips provided by tool manufacturers.


  • Safety glasses.
  • Face shield.
  • Hearing protection.
  • Hard hat.
  • Gloves.
  • Durable work boots with protective toes.
  • N95 or greater respiratory protection unless you’re using water for silica dust control.


  • Inspect the jackhammer or chipping hammer for damage and make sure all controls and safety interlocks work properly.
  • Check all couplings and accessories on all compressors and ensure that only correct, compatible couplings are in place.
  • Make sure safety or holding pins used on all hose connections are in place.
  • Inspect the safety clip or tool retainer for proper operation. This prevents you from unintentionally shooting the chisel or tool from the barrel.


  • Never exceed the tool’s designated operating pressure.
  • Never point a compressed air hose at yourself or anyone else.
  • Never use compressed air to blow dirt or debris from your clothes.
  • Always disconnect the tool when you’re not using it or when you are changing accessories.


  • Make sure that loose clothing doesn’t get caught in the equipment.
  • Verify that workers won’t encounter electrical or gas lines while performing the work.
  • Keep both hands on the tool.
  • Watch for excess lengths of the air hose, which can cause a tripping hazard.
  • Properly position your body while moving and using the equipment.
  • Allow the tool to do the work by using a grip light enough to maintain control.
  • Discontinue use if numbness, tingling, pain or discoloration of the skin occurs.
  • Always follow any manufacturer special instructions.

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Bites and stings from bees and wasps, fire ants, spiders, ticks and mites can be common occurrences for contractors.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the five insects that cause most allergic reactions in the United States are honeybees, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets and fire ants. Watch bite or sting victims of these insects for severe allergic reactions. The following symptoms require immediate emergency medical attention:

  • Coughing.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Chest pain.
  • Severe sweating.
  • Itching.
  • Nausea/Vomiting.
  • Redness and swelling around the area of the bite/sting.
  • Hives.

Areas of the body most susceptible to bites and stings are your head, exposed arms and exposed hands. You can reduce bites and stings by keeping these areas covered. You can also reduce your exposure by keeping work areas clean. Insects may be attracted to discarded food or open drink containers.

If you are susceptible to an allergic reaction from an insect bite or sting, you should inform your employer. People that are aware that they have a severe allergy to insect bites or stings should also:

  • Consider making their co-workers aware.
  • Wear a medical warning bracelet or necklace.
  • Carry a wallet card.
  • Carry an epinephrine auto-injector.


  • Remove the stinger by using a gauze wipe or by scraping a fingernail over the area.
  • Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers.
  • Wash the site with soap and water.
  • Apply ice to reduce swelling.
  • Seek medical attention and report work-related injuries.

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Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable, extremely hazardous gas with a rotten egg smell. It occurs naturally in crude petroleum and natural gas and can be produced by the breakdown of organic matter and human and/or animal wastes (i.e., sewage). It’s heavier than air and can collect in low-lying, enclosed, poorly ventilated areas such as basements, manholes, sewer lines and underground telephone and electrical vaults. When hydrogen sulfide gas burns it produces other toxic vapors and gases, including sulfur dioxide.


Health effects vary with the length of the exposure and the concentration levels in which you are exposed. People with asthma may be at greater risk. The OSHA Construction Permissible Exposure Limit is an eight-hour limit of 10 ppm.

  • Low concentrations (2 -5 ppm) – Effects include irritation of eyes, nose, throat or respiratory system. These effects can be delayed.
  • Moderate concentrations (20 -50 ppm) – Effects include more severe eye irritation and difficulty breathing, headache, dizziness, nausea, coughing and vomiting.
  • High concentrations (100 ppm and greater) – Effects that can be extremely rapid (within a few breaths) include shock, convulsions, inability to breathe, coma or death.


A qualified person using gas detection equipment must test the air for the presence and concentration of hydrogen sulfide (and other atmospheric hazards). The qualified person also determines if fire and/or explosion precautions are necessary.

  • If gas is present, you must ventilate the space.
  • If you can’t remove the gas, use appropriate respiratory protection and any other necessary personal protective, rescue and communication equipment.
  • Atmospheres containing high concentrations (greater than 100 ppm) are immediately dangerous to life and health and require a self-contained breathing apparatus.

There are absolutely NO circumstances under which you would ever enter a confined space (a space large enough to enter, limited entry and exit, not designed for continuous occupancy) without:

  1. Testing for atmospheric hazards.
  2. Having the equipment and training to do a non-entry rescue. Calling the fire department is NOT a rescue plan. It’s a recovery plan.
  3. Following all confined space requirements under OSHA 1926 Subpart AA.

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According to OSHA, of the 4,779 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2018, 1,008 or 21.1% were in construction — that is, one in five worker deaths were in construction. The leading causes of private sector worker deaths in the construction industry were falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution and caught-in/between. These “Fatal Four” were responsible for more than half (58.6%) the construction worker deaths in 2018.

Fall fatalities – 33.5%
Struck-by object fatalities – 11.1%
Electrocution fatalities – 8.5%
Caught-in/between fatalities – 5.5%


  • Correctly install and use personal fall arrest equipment.
  • Install and maintain guard rails and perimeter protection.
  • Cover and secure floor openings and label floor opening covers.
  • Inspect and use ladders and scaffolds correctly.


  • Do not place yourself between moving equipment and fixed objects.
  • Wear and maintain high-visibility clothes.
  • Use tag lines when moving suspended loads.
  • Inspect and use powered equipment correctly.
  • Use proper rigging techniques.


  • Properly slope or implement trench protection for excavations five feet or deeper.
  • Ensure guards are in place and in good condition on powered tools and equipment.


  • Locate and identify utilities before starting work.
  • Look for overhead power lines when operating any equipment.
  • Maintain minimum approach distance from power lines.
  • Use GFCI on all portable electric tools.
  • Be alert to electrical hazards when working with ladders, scaffolds or other platforms.

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A construction project can be hectic place with a high level of activity. Contractors and equipment move about, with everyone focused on the task at hand. In this environment, it’s easy to miss the signs and symptoms of a serious health situation, like a stroke. Early detection is critical to saving a life.

A stroke happens quickly. If a victim is treated within the first three hours of its onset, some effects of a stroke can be reversed.

The following are the most common symptoms of stroke. However, individuals may experience symptoms differently or at different times. Don’t ignore any of the symptoms, even if they go away.

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arms or legs, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden problems with vision such as dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden dizziness or problems with balance or coordination.
  • Sudden problems with movement or walking.
  • Sudden severe headaches with no other known cause.

The first three letters in the word stroke can help you determine if a person is having a stroke. Ask the individual to:

  • S – Smile.
  • T – Talk – Get them to speak a simple sentence, coherently, such as “It is sunny out today.”
  • R – Raise both arms.

Another method for remembering what symptoms to look for is the acronym FAST. The letters remind you to look for:

  • F – Facial weakness – Can the person smile? Are their mouth or eyes drooping?
  • A – Arm weakness – Can the person raise both arms and hold them parallel?
  • S – Speech problems – Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • T – Time is critical – Contact your supervisor immediately and consider calling 911.

Also, if you ask the person to stick out their tongue and, when they do, it is crooked or goes to one side or the other, there is a great likelihood that this person is having a stroke.

No matter the method you use to detect the signs and symptoms of a stroke, remember to seek immediate medical attention. Even if you are not sure, it is always best to err on the side of safety.

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