Working with concrete is simple and safe, but only if certain safety measures are observed. Injuries from working with concrete are uncommon, but do occur when safety precautions are not observed.
The fact is, wet concrete can cause skin and eye irritation and even severe chemical burns if you aren’t careful. Here are some things you can do to ensure your safety while working with concrete.
Your eyesight is precious; you don’t want to lose it due to carelessness. Keep wet concrete, dust, and other foreign objects out of your eyes by wearing side shield safety glasses or full goggles anytime you’re working with wet concrete.
In the event concrete does get into your eyes, flush with clean water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical attention.
Concrete and other substances mixed with cement are hygroscopic, meaning that they absorb water from anything they might come into contact with, including your skin.
Concrete also has a pH of about 12 to 13, the extreme alkaline end of the scale, so it can be highly caustic to skin. Depending on how long your skin is in contact with concrete, the result can range from minor irritation to third degree burns and skin ulcers. If you experience irritation that persists, call your doctor. If you experience deep burns, or burns over a large area, seek immediate medical attention.
Before working with concrete, remove any jewellery, such as rings, bracelets, or watches. Concrete can become trapped under these items and cause burns.
When working with concrete, always wear long sleeved shirts with sleeves tucked into thick, waterproof gloves, and long pants tucked into your shoes. If you must stand in wet concrete, be sure to wear waterproof boots that are long enough to keep the concrete from flowing in and being trapped against your skin.
If you do come into contact with wet concrete, wash immediately with pH neutral soap and plenty of water. Don’t delay, even if you don’t notice any irritation, as concrete burns may be painless until they have done significant damage.
Avoid allowing your clothing to become soaked with concrete, as it will then trap the concrete against your skin, potentially resulting in irritation or burns. If you do get concrete or concrete bleed water on your clothing, remove the clothing promptly and rinse the area with plenty of water.
If you’re finishing concrete, be sure to use waterproof pads between fresh concrete surfaces and your knees, elbows, hands, or any other part of your body that might come into contact with the concrete. About half of all concrete burns occur to the lower legs during this part of the process.
For many years, concrete has been widely used in construction and other applications. It offers tremendous strength and value, and can be quite safe when these few common-sense precautions are practiced.