Protecting Workers From Concrete Hazards
Concrete is a common material utilized across many construction sites, particularly as it pertains to foundation work. With this in mind, concrete hazards are a key concern within the sector. Such hazards may include respiratory issues caused by concrete dust, slips and falls on wet concrete, skin and eye irritation due to concrete spills or splashes, and struck-by injuries stemming from shifting or tipping concrete slabs—many of which can weigh greater than 800 pounds. Highlighting the prevalence of these hazards, a recent report released by the Center for Construction Research and Training found more than 3,000 injuries resulted from poured concrete incidents between 2017 and 2019.
Construction employers have a responsibility to protect their employees from recognized hazards on the job, including concrete risks. Specifically, OSHA standard 1926 subpart Q outlines steps employers must take to safeguard workers amid concrete and masonry construction projects. To ensure OSHA compliance and minimize concrete-related injuries among their workforce, employers should consider the following best practices:
- Offer adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). Make sure to provide employees with sufficient PPE when they work on projects involving concrete. Necessary PPE will vary based on specific tasks, but may include waterproof gloves, shatterproof safety glasses, hard hats, respirators and either steel-toed or rubber boots (depending on whether the concrete is dry or wet, respectively). It’s also important to have employees wear long-sleeved shirts and pants near concrete to keep their skin fully covered.
- Utilize and maintain worksite equipment. Employees may rely on a variety of equipment when working with concrete, including cement mixers and power tools. If this equipment isn’t properly maintained, it could shut down or malfunction, potentially harming operators and nearby workers. As such, it’s critical to keep all equipment on routine inspection and maintenance schedules, making repairs when needed. Additionally, be sure to provide optimal equipment that can help employees reduce concrete hazards, such as pumps for pouring the material instead of truck chutes or power buggies.
- Train and communicate with employees. Host regular safety meetings, training sessions and toolbox talks to educate employees on concrete hazards and associated mitigation measures. While working with this material, employees should understand injury risks, types and proper usage of PPE, applicable equipment operation and maintenance procedures, and incident response protocols.