The Unique Safety Challenges of Concrete Manufacturing

With a quarter of a million workers in the USA involved in the manufacturing of concrete as well as everyone else who uses concrete, the unique health and safety challenges of concrete remain a very real problem.

The hazards are many and varied:

  1. Cement Dust
    Cement dust is something that can cause its own set of health problems. It can cause irritation to the eyes, the throat, the nose and the lungs. It can also cause skin damage, from mild irritation to several cracking and burns. Additionally Silica exposure has been linked to silicosis and lung cancer.
    Steps to be taken to protect against cement dust:
    a. Protect skin, respiratory tract and eyes from exposure to cement dust. Wear the appropriate personal protective equipment like tyvek and tychem, gloves, cement workers boots and goggles.
    b. If you come in contact with cement dust wash it off as soon as possible with soap and water. Rinse the eyes if cement dust gets in them and contact your doctor as soon as possible to avoid long-term damage to the eyes.

    c. Use a P95 or N95 dust mask or respirator to protect the lungs.
    d. Do not consume food or drink in areas that have been exposed to cement dust.

  2. Wet Concrete
    Wet concrete can cause severe burns to the skin.
    a. Again, make sure that you are wearing the right PPE to protect against concrete burns. tyvek and tychem, gloves, cement workers boots and goggles should always been worn when working with wet concrete.
    b. Apply a neutralizing agent like Neutralite to change the pH balance of the wet concrete and protect against burns when wet cement has contacted the skin.
    c. If wet concrete comes into contact with the eyes, rinse eyes for 15 minutes and get to a hospital immediately.
  3. Other Hazards
    a.
    Guards to protect against the cement mixing machinery
    b. Cement trucks
    c. Other construction related safety issues (most concrete is used in construction) such as fall protection, ergonomic issues, hearing protection issues, lockout/tagout, etc…

For more information and documentation relating to concrete and cement health and safety issues, check out the OSHA “Concrete Manufacturing” webpage.


Indoor Air Quality still a major issue

Three Dog Night used to sing “Open up the window let some air into this room”! With spring in full swing (depending on where you are reading this from) I know that for our family getting air circulation going again is paramount. According to the EPA, indoor air quality ranks in the top 5 most urgent environmental risks. Studies have found that indoor air pollution can be anywhere from 2 to 100 times higher than the air outside your home or place of work.

The first and most obvious issue is that air outside the home circulates and indoor air stagnates. It’s one of the major issues with trying to maintain what homeowners and builders call the “envelop” of the home. In order to retain heat in winter and keep the house cool in summer, you need to “seal” the house and not let air currents compromise the integrity of the home or workplace.

When a home is sealed, however, any fumes, vapors, particulates, etc… stay inside. Whatever you bring in stays in. That’s fine for most items but it isn’t fine if what’s in the home and workplace are harmful to the body.

Why is indoor air quality so bad? What are the major pollutants in the home and workplace?

  • Fire Retardant treatments – Whether we are talking about the curtains, the carpet or the fabric on your couch, most products in your home have been treated in some manner in order to make them flame retardant. At issue, however, is the whether or not the chemicals used to create this flame retardant quality are really all that safe for you and your family. The chemicals can slowly leech and bleed out, and when they do you might end up ingesting them in some way.
  • Cleaning chemicals – Speaking of harmful chemicals, it never ceases to amaze me that people who would have a fit if someone were to come into their home and start spraying chemicals all over the place do exactly that themselves. Have a look at the list of chemicals that are in the cleaning supplies that you use. They are not the kind of thing that you would spray over your lunch or dinner but that is essentially what many of us are doing every time we clean. Most of these cleaners come in spray bottles that vaporize the cleaners and turn it into a mist. What this means is that you are taking these chemicals and making them airborne. Children inhale them, chemical particles float around in the house and can land anywhere, including the food you eat, your toothbrush, your clothing, etc… A lot of what you use to clean ends up in your system and in your family’s system.
  • Carpets – If you are going to live with carpeting in your home, don’t make the mistake of actually finding out what’s living and collecting in the fibers of that carpeting. One look at what’s trapped in there is enough to turn your stomach. Many of the issues with children and asthma and/or allergies can be remedied by removing carpeting.
  • Tupperware, plastic bottles and dishes, etc… –

Removing the pollutants in your home

  • There are safe and natural alternatives to most of the chemically impregnated fabrics in your couch, curtains, etc… Choose natural fibers like hemp and all natural wood products (most pressed board contains harmful chemicals in it)
  • Go Green to clean! Microfiber cleaning cloths are great alternatives to traditional chemical cleaners. They not only eliminate nasty chemicals but actually clean better in most cases. Spend some time researching natural cleaning alternatives like vinegar, lemon juice, etc…
  • Get rid of carpeting in your home in favor of hardwood floors, tiles, etc… Use throw rugs which can be washed regularly to remove germs, bacteria and harmful particulates that get trapped in the fibers.
  • Use PVC-free products. PVC has been found to leech harmful chemicals.
  • Never microwave in plastic containers. Just because it comes in a plastic container and says that it’s safe to microwave doesn’t mean it’s okay. All it means is that the container won’t melt. Plastics that are microwaved can break down over time releasing particles into the food you ingest.

The above list is only a small part of what needs to happen in order to create a toxin-free indoor space. To learn more about how to clean up your indoor pollutants, have a look at www.lesstoxicguide.ca