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Safety Tips: Concrete Construction Hazards

As it is with other construction works, concrete construction has some safety hazards that every worker must be aware of, both in residential and commercial construction projects. Having the knowledge of these potential risks and applying it will help the contractor and the project manager to work together in order to put approved safety plan in place.

Potential Concrete Construction Hazards

Some of the hazards relating to concrete construction are:

  • Skin and respiratory problems from cement dust;
  • Chemical burns from wet concrete;
  • Slips, trips and falls from elevated platforms;
  • Inadequate safety guards on equipment; and
  • Overexertion and awkward postures;

Hazards Resulting from Cement Dust

Exposure to cement dust can irritate the eyes, the nose, the 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.

Safety Measures

  • 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.

Hazards Resulting from Wet Concrete

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.

Safety Measures

  • 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.

Hazards Resulting from Machine Guarding

Unguarded machinery used in the manufacturing process can lead to worker injuries.

Safety Measures

  • 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.

Hazards Resulting from Falling Objects

Workers may be hit by falling objects from conveyor belt systems, elevators or concrete block stacking equipment.

Safety Measures

  • 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.

Hazards Resulting from Poor Ergonomics

Improper lifting, awkward postures and repetitive motions can lead to sprains, strains and other musculoskeletal disorders.

Safety Measures

  • 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.

Hazards Resulting from Confined Spaces

Mixers and ready-mix trucks have confined spaces that pose safety risks for workers.

Safety Measures

  • 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.

Hazards Resulting from Vehicles

Poorly maintained or improperly handled vehicles can lead to crushing injuries at the plant site or other injuries for truck drivers.

Safety Measures

  • 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.

Other Concrete-related Hazards

  • 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.

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