As with any construction task, working with cement can be dangerous if proper safety precautions are not taken. In fact, though cement may not be the most hazardous substance on a construction site, it can be especially harmful to the skin.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that lost workdays are seven times higher in the concrete fields than the U.S. national average. Also, lost work days because of skin problems are four times greater for concrete workers than for other construction workers.
Exposure to dry concrete can cause contact dermatitis and other skin problems because it contains chemicals and metals that make it abrasive. Also, breathing in dry cement dust can cause bronchitis and silicosis.
Wet concrete is even more dangerous to skin because it’s both hydroscopic and caustic. The hydroscopic nature of wet concrete means it draws moisture out of the skin. The caustic nature of wet cement can result in skin burns that both progress and worsen without additional exposure.
Cement Safety Tips
Since burns and other skin problems caused by cement worsen without additional exposure, it can be difficult to stop after exposure, and often go unnoticed until severe skin damage takes place. Preventing these issues is the best plan of action.
Consider these cement safety tips as a starting point:
- Wash with pH-neutral or acidic soaps after exposure to cement.
- Avoid any skin-softening products (lanolin, petroleum jelly, etc.) since they can seal cement to the skin and increase the skin’s ability to absorb contaminants.
- Take care when removing exposed hats, gloves, boots and other clothing to make sure cement on them does not contact the skin. Wash and store these items separately.
- Remember that knees, elbows, and hands are the most frequently burned by concrete, so use extra protection (pads and gloves) in these areas.
- Wear goggles or safety glasses to protect eyes against cement dust and splatters.
- Wear a respirator when working with dry cement
- Use a HEPA vacuum when cleaning up dry cement.
- Make sure skin is completely covered when working with cement, including wearing chemical-resistant gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and rubber boots.
For a more detailed look at preventing cement burns and other problems associated with exposure to dry or wet cement, check out Cement Safety “” Guidelines for Protecting Your Skin by RealSafety. The article also provides a detailed look at why cement has the impact on skin that it does.
Slow the Burning Process
When skin is exposed to wet or dry cement, quick treatment is essential since prolonged contact between skin and wet concrete can lead to serious skin problems such as ulcerations, painful burns, and even amputation.
Follow this simple process to prevent severe skin problems and slow the burning process:
- Remove contaminated clothing.
- Brush any dry cement off skin right away.
- Flush the affected area with running water for 20 minutes.
- Seek medical attention immediately, even if the skin doesn’t appear to be burned.
Contact with wet concrete can do severe damage to the skin, including severely burning it. Even dry cement, especially if it gets in eyes, can be harmful. Prevention provides the best approach and must involve proper training and a safe environment, both at home and on the work site.