Concrete is very versatile and durable, and very easy to work with. There are some basic precautions that should be taken when working with concrete. Overall, there are not a lot of injury reported accidents while working with concrete. We’ll go over some basic safety precautions including prevention, protection, and precaution.
First, you want to protect your head and your eyes. This seems obvious enough, but it’s very important when working on job sites that are undergoing construction. This is why hard hats are required on construction job sites. You also want to ensure that you have appropriate eye protection. Depending on the job there may by splattering concrete or chemicals, concrete dust and debris, or other foreign objects. The eyes are very sensitive to debris and injury can happen quickly once something gets into the eye. There is a wide array of options for safety glasses available. So, make sure you know what kind is right for the job.
Just as important as protecting your head and eyes is protecting your back. Everything used to make concrete (Portland cement, aggregate, sand, and water) is heavy. Even in small quantities it is important to remember to protect your back when lifting and moving heavy materials. The proper form is to bend your knees, keep your back straight, and keep the heavy item as close to your body and possible. Pivot to rotate instead of twisting your trunk to prevent injury. If the item is very heavy ask for help to move it rather than injuring yourself trying to move it yourself.
A plus is having a mechanical advantage when working with concrete. Keep the machine or item as close to the work area as possible. Once the concrete has been poured by the chute, pump, or wheelbarrow the concrete should be pushed to be spread out rather than lifted. You can use a square end shovel or special concrete rakes to spread the concrete.
It is also very important to protect your skin when working with concrete. This one is surprisingly overlooked. Concrete and other chemicals can cause anywhere from minor irritations to severe burns on the skin. If you have a chemical burn that persists it is important to get to the doctor as soon as possible. If you have a large area that is affected or a deep burn you should seek medical attention immediately.
Try to remember the ABC’s of fresh concrete and skin contact. A stands for abrasive sand, this is found in fresh concrete and can damage bare skin. B stands for basic and Portland cement, which is alkaline in nature and can cause cement burns when wet. C stands for caustic concrete and other cement mixtures that are very basic, meaning they have a pH of 12-13. Like strong acids, strong bases are harmful to skin. D stands for drying Portland cement, when Portland cement dries it absorbs water. It needs water to harden, so it will actually draw water from the skin if in contact with it. You also want to be careful when working with chemicals like polyurethane. This type of chemical burn can take a few days to show up and you want to avoid using jelly like ointments such as Vaseline. These will trap the chemicals in the skin and make the burn worse.
Clothing should be considered when working with concrete. Long sleeved shirts and pants such as jeans are recommended when working with concrete, but it is important to pay attention to any areas that become saturated with concrete or other chemicals. If the clothing becomes wet at all alkaline or hygrosopic effects could be transmitted to the skin. Waterproof gloves are a very important barrier for your hands as well. Wear rubber boots if you need to stand in concrete that is being poured and remember to wash your hands frequently with clean water and a pH neutral soap.
When placing and finishing waterproof pads should be used to protect the knees, hands, and elbows from touching the concrete. If you eyes or skin come in contact with any elements of concrete make sure to flush them immediately with clean water. If clothing absorbs concrete make sure to rinse it quickly with clean water to prevent any damage to the skin. If any irritation or other problems persist seek medical attention immediately.