Aug 7, 2020

Common Concrete Construction Safety Hazards to Avoid

Built Environment
Construction Global
Jonathan Campion
4 min
What are some of the most common concrete construction hazards, and how can you avoid them on the job?
Safety hazards are a part of life in this arena. So what are some of the most common concrete construction hazards, and how can you avoid them on the jo...

Common Concrete Construction Safety Hazards to Avoid

A guest post by EMILY FOLK

Concrete construction provides the foundation for our homes and businesses — often quite literally. As with any facet of the construction industry, safety hazards are a part of life in this arena. So what are some of the most common concrete construction hazards, and how can you avoid them on the job?

1. Chemical Burns

Wet cement has a high pH due to the addition of calcium oxide. When mixed with water, it turns into calcium hydroxide with a pH between 12 and 14. If it comes into contact with bare skin, it can cause serious chemical burns.

Preventing this hazard is as simple as putting a dress code into play that requires full cover — pants, boots, long-sleeved shirts and gloves — whenever workers interact with wet cement. Safety protocols can also be beneficial in preventing this entirely avoidable workplace hazard.

2. Lifting Injuries

When it's dry, concrete is incredibly heavy. Depending on the formula, it can weigh up to 150 pounds per cubic foot. Improper lifting injuries are common in these situations, especially if a worker tries to lift a poured piece of concrete without the proper equipment.

This is another fairly easy hazard to avoid. Provide sufficient equipment for lifting, from forklifts and pallet jacks to cranes and anything else that's necessary. For situations where manual lifting is necessary, train your employees in proper lifting techniques. Lift with the legs, not with the back, and don't twist while carrying any heavy objects.

3. Dust Exposure

Dry concrete mixtures, among other things, contain silica dust particles small enough to breathe in. Continual exposure to silica dust can cause hardening in the lungs known as silicosis. Construction workers get exposed to varying levels of silica dust during the course of their duties. Over time, this can develop into a dangerous chronic health problem.

The easiest way to avoid dust exposure in concrete construction is to limit the amount of silica dust a worker encounters during their daily activities. If exposure is unavoidable, provide sufficient personal protective equipment to keep them from inhaling dangerous levels of concrete dust.

The source of the construction materials may also present other risks. Construction materials gathered from waterway dredging may also contain metals and chemicals that settled at the bottom of the river or lake from which it originated.

4. Falls and Falling Objects

Falling from great heights is always a risk in construction. It's so common that OSHA dubbed it one of the Fatal Four — the four most common causes of fatalities in construction. Likewise, falling objects in concrete construction are incredibly dangerous due to the sheer weight of cured concrete.

The two risks often go hand in hand, but both are easy to avoid by following established safety protocols and OSHA guidelines.

For falls, managers and supervisors need to provide fall-arrest equipment and enforce its use anytime a worker is far enough above ground level to create a risk. For falling objects, ensure that everyone wears the correct PPE and keep areas clear beneath objects being moved by heavy equipment.

5. Heat-Related Illness

Heat-related illnesses are a risk anytime you're outdoors, but working in construction puts you in a unique position that makes it even more dangerous. Concrete absorbs heat whenever it's in direct sunlight and releases that heat slowly throughout the day. In turn, this means that even crews working at night might experience higher ambient temperatures, putting them at risk for heat-related illness.

Heat illnesses are the easiest risk to avoid, especially since in many cases you won't want to pour or place concrete during extreme heat anyway. Provide plenty of water and electrolyte beverages like Gatorade. Encourage your team to take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors, and try to avoid the hottest hours of the day.

Avoid Common Concrete Construction Safety Hazards

It's possible to avoid many of the most common concrete construction safety hazards simply by paying close attention to proper protocols and procedures. Keep safety at the forefront of everyone's mind, regardless of their position, and you'll find it's much easier to avoid these common hazards.


Emily Folk covers topics in sustainability and green manufacturing. She is also the creator of Conservation Folks

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Jun 20, 2021

Contractor issues head disputes list in 2020: Arcadis report

Dominic Ellis
2 min
The average value of disputes globally rose to $54.26 million in 2020 - but the numbers were much the same as 2019, according to an Arcadis report

The average value of disputes globally rose from $30.7 million in 2019 to $54.26 million in 2020, while the length of disputes fell from 15 months in 2019 to 13.4 months, according to an Arcadis report.

The data, featured in Arcadis' 11th annual report, illustrates industry-wide ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic although interestingly the overall volume of disputes stayed relatively the same in 2020 as in 2019.

While trends in the value and length of disputes varied from region to region, all regions surveyed saw an increase in "mega disputes" related to bigger capital programs and private projects. Notably, more than 60% of survey respondents encountered project impacts due to COVID-19.

Owners, contractors, or subcontractors failing to understand and/or comply with their contractual obligations became the leading cause of construction disputes in 2020 (jumping from 3rd place in 2019), followed by owner-directed changes and third-party or force-majeure changes as the second and third-leading causes, respectively.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Proper contract administration was a theme across the globe for the successful and early resolution of disputes
  • Most disputes were settled through party-to-party negotiation, and a willingness to compromise played a key role in early resolution
  • Among regions surveyed, the buildings (education, healthcare, retail/commercial, government) sector saw the most disputes
  • In North America, construction dispute value rose from $18.8 million in 2019 to $37.9 million in 2020, while the length of disputes shortened from 17.6 to 14.2 months.

While cost and length have changed since 2019, risk management was still seen as the most effective claims avoidance tactic, while owner/contractor willingness to compromise was once again the top-ranked factor for the mitigation/early resolution of disputes.

"COVID-19 irrevocably changed every industry," said Roy Cooper, head of contract solutions for Arcadis North America. "Construction disputes experts will have to continue to adapt, even post-pandemic, as workforce expectations, climate events and government infrastructure funding change how projects are designed and contracted in the future."

The research presented in the report was compiled by Arcadis based on survey responses, global construction disputes the team handled in 2020 and contributions from industry experts.

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