Can Concrete Burns be Prevented?

Concrete burns are caused by chemicals in wet cement, and can be incredibly damaging if left untreated. Its high pH makes it corrosive and can burn the skin, eyes, mouth and lungs. Symptoms tend to worsen even after rinsing concrete, and can lead to blistering, swelling, oozing and bleeding. In severe cases, burns can reach the bone, leaving disfiguring scars or disability.

Skin and tissue damage can be so severe that it requires limb amputation. The best prevention is to avoid or minimize exposure to it. That's the sneak attack of concrete burns. Concrete is highly caustic and works slowly, so a burn can develop within hours or even days. If concrete gets wet on your skin, rinse it with water and a neutral or slightly acidic pH soap as soon as you notice it.

Burns tend to come on slowly, and the longer you wait to treat them, the more severe they become. According to OSHA experts, prevention of cement burns begins when the frontline foreman instructs employees about the hazards associated with wet concrete and the safety precautions needed to avoid injuries. Be sure to remove any concrete dust from the skin before washing the area. If you suspect that you are suffering from a concrete burn or if you are splashed with wet concrete while wearing permeable clothing, immediately (and carefully) remove clothing, jewelry, or protective equipment. Waterproof, well-maintained personal protective equipment (PPE) is crucial to protecting hands, arms, legs, feet and eyes from direct contact with fresh concrete or cement. Test results show that it neutralizes high pH, or alkalinity, in skin that has been in contact with wet concrete and reduces hexavalent chromium to undetectable limits. Creating a safe working environment by minimizing skin contact with wet concrete, both directly and indirectly, from contaminated surfaces is essential to prevent cement burns.

It's best to avoid or minimize exposure to concrete and cement to avoid injury, and part of that is knowing what you're dealing with, as well as preparing yourself properly for the job. Ironically, wearing protective clothing that is not specifically designed for concrete handling makes it more likely that a chemical burn will occur. With more than 250,000 people working in the manufacture of concrete, safety risks are high and frequent when working with this material. Anyone who works with fresh cement products needs access to clean water and concrete burn neutralizers. The establishment of best practice guidelines, along with routine safety inspections should further limit injuries caused by direct contact with wet concrete. Yes, and the consequences can be serious.

Concrete or cement products can cause third-degree chemical burns. Burns take so long to develop that by the time you notice even mild symptoms, it may be too late to prevent more serious injuries.

Jack Brown
Jack Brown

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