Roughly 150,000 construction site accidents happen in the U.S. each year, with falls and contact with equipment being the most common instances. With this said, each type of construction project/site comes with its own hazards and concrete construction hazards are no different. It’s essential for any contractor breaking into concrete to be fully aware of the potential risks of the job. This goes hand in hand with putting together a concrete construction safety plan to address them. Knowing the full scale of a problem is the first step to solving it, so, here’s a look at the hazards that come with building concrete.
Concrete Construction Hazards
Falls From Elevated Platforms
We mentioned that falls were the most common construction site accidents overall and they pose an acute risk in terms of concrete safety hazards as well. These accidents contribute to over $12 billion in healthcare in disability costs to employers in the country and represent 15% of all accidental deaths in industrial work settings. While falls from elevated platforms are the most common version we expect to see here, that doesn’t mean they are the only issue. When you are holding a heavy item like concrete equipment or working around concrete mix, even a little fall can result in serious injury.
It’s important that concrete workers reduce risk by attending to debris, clutter, and spills right away, as these serve as major hazards. In addition, abrasive floor mats and proper footwear are good methods to avoid tripping risks. Finally, as a general point, the need to rush is a contributing factor to almost all concrete work hazards. Make sure they have the time they need to do their jobs to avoid the risk of sloppy mistakes.
Statistically speaking, people who work around concrete or other construction-related jobs see a higher incidence of sprains and musculoskeletal disorders compared to the rest of the population. To an extent, this is to be expected, especially compared to an office job. However, a lot of workers exacerbate risk through bad practices. Not properly lifting concrete or equipment, holding awkward positions, or performing repetitive motions can all contribute to workplace injuries.
In order to protect your team, make sure they have equipment like forklifts or hand trucks to move items that can’t be lifted safely by hand. When hand-lifting is the preferred method, be sure to hammer in best practices like bending and lifting from your knees, avoiding twisting while holding a load, and always asking for assistance when needed.
Many automatically think of issues with hardened concrete when talking about concrete construction hazards, but it has its dangers in its wet form as well. Concrete absorbs moisture as it hardens, and when you apply this to human skin, it can lead to issues like irritation, dermatitis, or a chemical burn. In the most extreme cases, skin grafts and amputation may be needed due to contact with wet concrete.
Because of this, any concrete workers around fresh concrete need to take special care of their skin. This means wearing protective gear like waterproof clothing, tall boots, long pants, as well as alkali-resistant gloves. In the event that contact does happen, medical attention and emergency washes should be used immediately.
Dry concrete mixing generally results in a lot of ambient dust, which, unchecked, can cause many troubles for the respiratory system. In a short-term phase, this can just irritate your nose and throat. However, people who are repeatedly exposed to this dust can develop a variety of respiratory infections and illnesses. On top of mixing, dust can come from:
— Sanding concrete
— Cutting concrete
— Grinding concrete
— Pouring concrete
At a minimum, you need to supply all your field crews with respirator masks. Another idea, if it makes sense for your business, is avoiding having your concrete mixed on-site and having a supplier provide it. However, for larger projects, that may not be feasible.
This is a universal concern around a lot of construction sites, concrete projects included. Cutting, pouring, and general work with concrete is a noisy process, and if your team members are working long days over a prolonged period of time, they do risk ear damage and even permanent hearing loss. Because there isn’t a way to really reduce the noise, all job sites should have some form of hearing protection available to all workers, even if they are only on site for a short period of time.
You don’t have to be in a tropical setting to run the risk of heatstroke. Anyone who spends a prolonged amount of time out in the sun without proper hydration can end up getting heatstroke. As a result, all job site managers should make sure there is adequate time to get breaks and hydrate, even when working on a tight schedule.
When we talk about the hazards of operating construction equipment on concrete composite slabs or other work in the industry, the stakes are high. You can’t control every single unforeseen event that will happen on a job site, but you are still responsible for any financial costs. The same applies to your public images after a major worksite accident.
The best way to protect yourself is to make sure that you are promoting safety at every level of operations. While there are government and industry regulations for concrete and masonry construction hazards, this is one area where you want to go above and beyond. Make sure that your workers are all well educated on potential risks that happen while they work, and provide industry resources they can use to learn even further. As an employer, you need to pull your weight as well. Always make sure there is a surplus of protective gear, and set up a communication line to allow your team to report potential concrete-pour hazards or other safety concerns.