Nationwide, more than a quarter of a million people work in concrete manufacturing. In a single year, more than 10 percent of those workers are injured or come down with an illness due to job-related hazards, indicating that, while widespread, concrete manufacturing can be dangerous.
In an effort to keep concrete workers safe on the job, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identified some of the most common hazards that lead to these injuries and illnesses and urged construction safety managers take steps to reduce them. While several are common across many construction activities, such as fall, overexertion and machinery hazards, others involve the concrete materials themselves: cement dust and wet concrete.
According to OSHA, exposure to cement dust can irritate workers' eyes, nose, throat and the upper respiratory system, while silica inhalation can lead to lung injuries such as silicosis and lung cancer. In addition, skin can become irritated, thicken and crack if it comes into contact with cement dust. It can also cause chemical burns.
To stay protected from the damaging effects of cement dust exposure, OSHA reminds construction employees to rinse their eyes with water if they come into contact with cement dust, as well as consult a physician. If dust settles on the skin, use soap and water to wash it off as soon as possible. To avoid ingesting or inhaling cement dust, OSHA advises wearing a respirator, as well as refraining from eating or drinking in areas where dust might be present.
Not only can exposure to wet concrete irritate the skin, but it can cause severe chemical burns.
Wearing alkali-resistant gloves, coveralls with long sleeves and full-length pants, waterproof boots and eye protection, however, can help protect concrete manufacturers from experiencing these symptoms. Contaminated skin should be washed with cold, running water immediately following exposure. If eyes are splashed with wet concrete, rinse them for at least 15 minutes, then go to the hospital for further treatment.
Staying aware of construction site safety hazards can have a major impact on your health. To sign up for one of Safety Advantage's health and safety training classes, contact us today.