Working Safely with Concrete

Concrete is simple to work with, adaptable, strong, and affordable. It is also safe—among the safest building materials known—as long as you take a few simple safety precautions. Injuries have occurred relatively rarely over time among those who mix, handle, and finish concrete. The advice given below is straightforward and can be used by anyone working with Portland cement and concrete. It includes protection, prevention, and common sense precautions.

To alert the public to construction activity, the jobsite should be properly marked. Access to areas can be limited by using warning signs, barricades, and fences. To reduce risks to workers, the workspace needs to be kept tidy and uncluttered. Keep in mind that everyone working on site has a responsibility for safety.

Protect Your Head and Eyes

Tools and equipment used in construction pose ongoing risks to the busy workers who use them. Therefore, it is advised to wear some sort of head protection, such as a hard hat or safety hat, when working on any type of construction project, regardless of how big or small.

When working with concrete or cement, appropriate eye protection is crucial. Particularly susceptible to flying dust, splattering concrete, and other foreign objects are the eyes. Full-coverage goggles or safety glasses with side shields might be advised for some jobs. Always keep in mind how valuable sight is. Make sure you’re wearing the right safety gear and staying vigilant to protect your head and eyes.

Protect Your Back

Portland cement, coarse aggregate, sand, and water are all ingredients used to make concrete and can all be quite heavy, even in small amounts. When lifting heavy objects, keep your back straight, your knees bent, and the weight between your legs as close to your body as possible. When lifting or carrying these objects, avoid twisting at the waist. Get assistance rather than pushing a heavy load on your back. Do not forget to use your head, not your back.

By placing concrete as close as possible to its final position, you can make mechanical equipment work to your advantage. A shovel should be used to push the concrete into place rather than lift it once it has been dropped by a chute, pump, or wheelbarrow into the desired location. Although specialized concrete rakes or come-alongs can also be used, a short-handled, square-end shovel is the most efficient tool for spreading concrete. The concrete must be moved more slowly and with more effort if it is moved too horizontally, which could separate the components of the concrete.

Avoid taking any actions that could cause dust to fly into the air. In areas with poor ventilation, when exposure limits are exceeded, or when dust irritates the eyes or nose, respirators may be used to reduce exposures below legal exposure limits. Avoid being around dust for an extended period of time.

Protect Your Skin

Care should be taken to prevent chemical burns or skin irritation when working with freshly laid concrete. Long-term exposure to fresh concrete can cause very serious burns, including third-degree burns, to skin surfaces, eyes, and clothing. Consult a doctor if the irritation continues. Seek immediate medical attention for severe burns or large areas of skin damage.

The A-B-Cs of fresh concrete’s effect on skin are:

Fresh concrete contains abrasive sand, which is harsh on exposed skin. Wet Caustic concrete and other cement mixtures have a pH between 12 and 13, which is strongly basic because basic and Portland cement is naturally alkaline. Strong bases, like strong acids, are caustic or harmful to the skin. Portland cement is hygroscopic when dry and absorbs water. Water is actually necessary for Portland cement to harden. Any material it touches, including skin, will be drained of any water.

Clothing worn as a barrier against freshly laid concrete shouldn’t be allowed to become saturated with moisture from freshly laid concrete as this could cause the skin to become alkaline or hygroscopic.

Long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and waterproof gloves are all recommended. Wear rubber boots that are high enough to prevent concrete from getting into them if you must stand on freshly placed, screeded, or floated concrete.

The best way to prevent skin irritation is to frequently wash with pH-neutral soap and fresh water.

Placing and Finishing

Fresh concrete surfaces and knees, elbows, hands, and other body parts should be separated by waterproof pads., to protect the body during finishing operations. Fresh concrete should be thoroughly rinsed out of the eyes and skin. To avoid further contact with skin surfaces, clothing that becomes saturated after coming into contact with fresh concrete should be immediately rinsed out with clear water. Consult a doctor if your discomfort is severe or persistent.

When working with new concrete, start every day in clean clothes and end it with a shower or bath.

Information Source: Portland Cement Association

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