Concrete burns will be this weeks toolbox talk topic. Concrete work typically involves strenuous physical labor and exposes workers to various hazards. Despite the need for a consistent or even accelerated pace, it is crucial to take the time to identify and manage these risks. One prevalent hazard that requires discussion and action in concrete work is concrete burns.

What Causes Concrete Burns?

Dry cement contains harmless calcium oxide, but when mixed with water, it forms calcium hydroxide, which has a high pH of 12 to 13. This makes wet cement extremely alkaline, which can cause caustic skin burns that worsen over time with prolonged exposure. Even if a worker is unaware of it, wet cement on their skin can damage it microscopically, and they may not feel any discomfort for hours.

What Do Concrete Burns Look Like?

Concrete burns often cause skin discoloration that can turn into a painful purple-blue hue and result in ulcerations or even amputation in severe cases. Red, inflamed skin and severe blistering can also occur. Additionally, cement burns may cause allergic dermatitis.

Concrete Burn Medical Response

If wet concrete comes into direct contact with the eyes or skin, immediate action should be taken to minimize burning:

  • Carefully remove contaminated clothing, taking care not to touch unaffected areas, and promptly rinse with clean water.
  • Gently brush off any dry chemicals from the skin and rinse the affected area with clean running water for at least 20 minutes. To neutralize the alkaline, consider adding vinegar, citrus, or a buffer to the water.
  • Rinse the eyes with clean water for 20 minutes if they are affected.
  • Seek professional medical attention promptly. Provide medical personnel with records of assessments, air monitoring, and medical surveillance reports required by regulations 5, 6 and 7,that outlines the skin hazards of concrete work.

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