Hard Truth: A Guide to Concrete Safety

Concrete is a very versatile and common construction material, and it can be easy to be complacent around a substance you're so familiar with. However, it's vital to remember that concrete, like any other material, comes with some risks. As such, any operators or contractors who will be working with concrete should be familiar with the following basic safety information.

Required PPE

Anybody working with or around concrete should be equipped with a hard hat, protective eyewear and sufficient clothing to cover the skin—including gloves. Often, on a site where concrete is being used, there will be loud equipment in operation; if this is the case, hearing protection is also necessary.

Prevent Skin Contact

Concrete is an alkaline substance. As such, wet concrete can be caustic and should not under any circumstances come into extended contact with bare skin; it will cause burns. In extreme causes, it can even cause third-degree burns. Be prepared to contact a medical professional in case this should occur. Cement is also strongly hygroscopic and will draw water from the surface of the skin if permitted. For these reasons, it is recommended that protective clothing should be replaced regularly; do not allow clothing to become wet or soaked through, as this may allow the burning effects to transmit through the fabric. (Clothing need not be discarded; it can be washed and reused.)

Supply Waterproof Pads

In order to further aid workers in avoiding direct contact with the concrete, waterproof pads should be provided. These will allow close access to the surface of the concrete without the worker having to lean directly against the surface; this is useful for finishing. As with the protective clothing, pads should be replaced and washed, should they become saturated with concrete.

Correct Lifting Procedure

Needless to say, concrete is extremely heavy. As such, proper safe lifting procedures should be followed at all times when moving concrete—including in wheelbarrows. This will protect the back. As always, safe lifting procedure requires that the knees should be bent to squat down and take the weight of the load. Never bend forward. Keep the weight close to the body, and straighten the legs. Concrete should never be lifted above shoulder level, and you should not turn or twist while supporting the weight of the concrete. Supervisors should take care to ensure this is followed at all times.

As such, although concrete is a deceptively common substance, care should be taken to ensure that it is handled correctly. Be sure that any teams of workers are trained correctly in all this safety information, or hire a specialist industrial concrete service where necessary.