What Happens to Concrete When It Burns?

Once concrete starts to harden, burns can form slowly over hours or days. This is because, in order for concrete to harden, it has to absorb moisture, driving water away from anything that retains moisture, even wet clothes and skin, which only helps in the drying process. Concrete burns are caused by chemicals in wet cement. 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 gradually, and the longer you wait to treat them, the more serious they become. Symptoms usually worsen even after rinsing concrete. Concrete burns occur when concrete comes into contact with the skin. Prolonged skin contact is usually due to concrete being trapped under gloves or clothing.

It's the sneaky attack of concrete burns. Concrete is highly caustic and works slowly, so a burn can develop within hours or even days. If left untreated, a concrete burn could blister, swell, ooze, and bleed. In fact, second- or third-degree burns can occur after brief exposures.

Once the burn is noticed, a lot of damage has already been done and it is difficult to stop the additional damage. 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. Initially, a particular burn has little effect on the skin, since the reaction occurs slowly. This allows time for the burn to be treated effectively, however, if left unattended, the skin becomes irritated, blistered or burned.

Waterproof, well-maintained personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential for protecting hands, arms, legs, feet and eyes from direct contact with fresh concrete or cement. In the second case, a 57-year-old man developed deep burns to both knees and skin after kneeling on concrete while spilling it. 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. We are used to thinking of creams or lotions to relieve the stinging of a burn, but petroleum jelly, lanolin lotion, and many creams can trap contaminants against the skin and make concrete burns worse. While momentary contact with intact skin is unlikely to cause harm (after all, children have been putting handprints on wet concrete for years), prolonged contact increases the chances of getting a burn.

Certain epoxies, accelerators, water reducers, superplasticizers, retardants and other mixtures in concrete can also have a sensitizing effect. The cement itself is highly alkaline and concrete contains abrasive aggregates that can cause small cuts. If you are an employer whose employees work with concrete, training your staff to understand the causes and effects of concrete burns will be the best way to prevent them from happening in the first place. A 1997 survey of apprentices of concrete masons revealed that 35 per cent of them experienced concrete burns (and only had an average of 3 years of experience on the job). Another frequent form of injury was kneeling without additional knee protection when leveling concrete or cement; 5 (11%) of the cases described.

Anyone who works with fresh cement products needs access to clean water and concrete burn neutralizers. Unfortunately, concrete also soaked his clothes reaching his hands, arms, knees and ankles. If cement is left for a long period of time, concrete burns can also damage muscle or bone. He had been kneeling on concrete that he had spilled and now he had deep burns with some scabs on both knees and shins. Ever Readymix Concrete is proud to be a leading supplier of ready-mix concrete to customers throughout the Yorkshire region. Be sure to wash your work clothes frequently and separately from your usual clothes so that wet concrete does not seep through the fabrics and comes into contact with the skin.

Jack Brown
Jack Brown

Freelance beer maven. Hipster-friendly web ninja. Freelance pop culture maven. Award-winning music junkie. Amateur food evangelist.