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
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 . 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 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 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 — 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.
The Queen's Speech and its impact on construction
As the UK strives to bounce back after the pandemic and 'level up' opportunities across the country, today's Queen's Speech had much for the construction industry to digest, as a total of 31 bills were presented to parliament.
From infrastructure and planning (first unveiled last August), to ongoing building reforms and 'skills for jobs' to promote lifelong learning, the bills' implications are broad. Among the notable developments:
- The White Paper Planning for the Future (unveiled in August 2020) proposes wide-ranging reform, arguing that the planning system in England was “outdated and ineffective”
- A bill covering ground rents on future lease agreements will “set future ground rents to zero" in the forthcoming 2021-22 session
- A Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill will extend 5G mobile coverage and introduce new safety standards for digital devices
- A Subsidy Control Bill for supporting private companies, now the UK has left the EU's "state aid" regime
- The Procurement Bill will replace EU rules on how the government buys services from the private sector
- Tax breaks for employers based in eight freeports to be set up in England later this year will be included in a National Insurance Contributions Bill
- A new UK agency to search for ground-breaking scientific discoveries will be established by the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill
- New powers to build and operate the next stage of the HS2 high-speed rail line are contained in the High Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill
Chairman of Strawberry Star, Santhosh Gowda, said modernising the UK's time-honoured planning laws was never going to be easy, but the idea of a "dynamic, flexible and digitalised system" is an exciting prospect. "It will be a balancing act to boost housing supply without compromising on design, community, and ecology, whilst also ensuring it fits with the government’s ‘Building Better Building Beautiful’ ethos too," he said.
Marnix Elsenaar, Partner and Head of Planning at Addleshaw Goddard, said after months of rumours that the Government had got 'cold feet' about following through on the more controversial proposals in its Planning White Paper, today's Queen's Speech has promised a Planning Bill to "modernise the planning system, so that more homes can be built", but we await more details.
"The Bill is likely to require local authorities to allocate land either for growth, so that new homes, schools, offices and shops will get a fast-track to planning approval, or for protection," he said. "Rumour has it that a third "regeneration" zone is being considered. Whether other elements of the White Paper, such as a new infrastructure levy will make their way into the Bill remains to be seen. What we can say with certainty is that the Bill will be a big step on the road away from the development control system that we're used to, towards a US-style zonal system that front-loads community engagement to the plan-making stage and provides a national and local design code that sets the parameters for what you can build."
Ben Dyer, CEO of Powered Now, a field service management software working with over 1,500 SMEs in the trades, wants to see a simple rules-based approach rather than the decision of a committee, therefore resulting in a faster decision and appeal process. "We believe it should be a requirement that all county councils should have a clear housing and development policy. This will increase the transparency on what can, and can't be built and will save a lot of time, effort and money. This policy should focus on protecting green spaces by relaxing planning rules on brownfield land," he said.
Plans should include simpler planning for the renovation of existing buildings, and relax the rules for homeowners who want to improve their houses, he added.
"There is an opportunity for the Government to make a concerted effort on the aesthetic of homebuilding, that has been sorely ignored on a national level for so long. A carrot and stick approach that rewards developers for building outstanding and unique buildings, while penalising generic out of character developments would be hugely welcome," he said.
"Following the collapse of the Green Homes Grant, this plan should also include new buildings to be developed with energy production and efficiency at the heart of the design process. This is absolutely essential if the UK is to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050."
Timothy Douglas, Policy and Campaigns Manager, Propertymark, said the announcement in today's Queen's Speech that the UK Government will publish a Renters Reform White Paper in the Autumn demonstrates that Ministers are prepared to engage with the industry to understand the impact any substantial legislative changes will have on those involved in the private rented sector.
“With the focus of the new package on lifetime deposits, landlord redress and greater enforcement, the UK Government must look at ensuring that a system that would allow deposits to be passported can only take place if there is a bridging loan, with the UK Government as the guarantor, in order to ensure the remaining part of the deposit is covered should the tenant default," he said. "Additionally, the UK Government must prevent ‘double jeopardy’ and only extend redress membership to properties that are fully managed."
He said Propertymark will be engaging with MHCLG and MPs to ensure they fully understand the consequences of any changes, and scrutinising the White Paper and proposed legislation, to ensure the best possible outcome for members.