Safely working with Concrete
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the US has made available some insightful information on Safety when working with Concrete!
- More than 250,000 people work in concrete manufacturing.
- Over 10 percent of those workers – 28,000 – experienced a job-related injury or illness and 42 died in just one year.
- Potential hazards for workers in concrete manufacturing:
- Eye, skin and respiratory tract irritation from exposure to cement dust;
- Inadequate safety guards on equipment;
- Inadequate lockout/tagout systems on machinery;
- Overexertion and awkward postures;
- Slips, trips and falls; and
- Chemical burns from wet concrete.
Hazards & Solutions
Manufacturing concrete can pose health and safety risks for the worker. For concrete manufacturing, the 10 OSHA standards most frequently included in the agency’s citations were:
- Hazard communication
- Confined spaces
- Respiratory protection
- Guarding floor & wall openings and holes
- Electrical wiring methods
- Noise exposure
- Electrical systems design
- Machine guarding
- Concrete Manufacturing
Hazard: Exposure to cement dust can irritate eyes, nose, throat and the upper respiratory system. Skin contact may result in moderate irritation to thickening/cracking of skin to severe skin damage from chemical burns. Silica exposure can lead to lung injuries including silicosis and lung cancer.
- Rinse eyes with water if they come into contact with cement dust and consult a physician.
- Use soap and water to wash off dust to avoid skin damage.
- Wear a P-, N- or R-95 respirator to minimize inhalation of cement dust.
- Eat and drink only in dust-free areas to avoid ingesting cement dust.
Hazard: Exposure to wet concrete can result in skin irritation or even first-, second- or third-degree chemical burns. Compounds such as hexavalent chromium may also be harmful.
- Wear alkali-resistant gloves, coveralls with long sleeves and full-length pants, waterproof boots and eye protection.
- Wash contaminated skin areas with cold, running water as soon as possible.
- Rinse eyes splashed with wet concrete with water for at least 15 minutes and then go to the hospital for further treatment.
Hazard: Unguarded machinery used in the manufacturing process can lead to worker injuries.
- Maintain conveyor belt systems to avoid jamming and use care in clearing jams.
- Ensure that guards are in place to protect workers using mixers, block makers, cubers and metalworking machinery such as rebar benders, cutters and cage rollers.
- Establish and follow effective lockout/tagout procedures when servicing equipment.
- Be sure appropriate guards are in place on power tools before using them.
Hazard: Workers may be hit by falling objects from conveyor belt systems, elevators or concrete block stacking equipment.
- Avoid working beneath cuber elevators, conveyor belts and stacker/destacker machinery.
- Stack and store materials properly to limit the risk of falling objects.
- Wear eye protection when chipping and cleaning forms, products or mixers.
Hazard: Improper lifting, awkward postures and repetitive motions can lead to sprains, strains and other musculoskeletal disorders.
- Use handtrucks or forklifts when possible.
- Lift properly and get a coworker to help if a product is too heavy.
- Avoid twisting while carrying a load. Shift your feet and take small steps in the direction you want to turn.
- Keep floors clear to avoid slipping and tripping hazards.
- Avoid working in awkward postures.
Hazard: Mixers and ready-mix trucks have confined spaces that pose safety risks for workers.
- Follow established procedures for confined space entry and work to assure safety.
- Guard against heat stress when cleaning truck mixer drums.
- Wear appropriate protective equipment to avoid silica exposure when removing concrete residues from inside truck mixer drums.
Hazard: Poorly maintained or improperly handled vehicles can lead to crushing injuries at the plant site or other injuries for truck drivers.
- Make sure back-up alarms on all vehicles are functioning.
- Avoid overloading cranes and hoists.
- Use care with the load out chute on concrete mixers to avoid injuries to hands and fingers.
- Beware of hot surfaces on equipment and truck components.
- Guard eyes against splashes of aggregate materials during loading and unloading.
- Use hearing protection if needed to guard against excessive noise exposure during cement loading/unloading and while using pneumatic chippers inside truck mixer drums.
Welding operations can lead to flash burns.
Makeshift ladders, platforms and stairs with improper or no guardrails make falls more likely.
Workers can also be injured by falling concrete forms if the forms are improperly chocked, braced or cribbed.
Click to Download the Pocket Guide to Concrete Manufacturing