Any employee who has skin contact with wet cement has the potential to develop problems. It is found in the following materials; concrete, quikrete, mortar, plaster, grout, stucco and dry wall mud. Examples of employees who may be exposed to the dangers of wet cement products include bricklayers (mortar), carpenters (Hardy board), cement masons, concrete finishers, laborers (demolition, chipping or grinding concrete), plasterers, tile setters (grout), drywallers (mud) and concrete truck drivers. Others can be exposed if working near these trades.
Cement burns can result in blisters, dead or hardened skin, or black or green skin. These burns can infect very quickly and must be treated right away. Cement burns can get worse even after skin contact with cement has ended. Once burned, the skin may require treatment where doctors submerge the burned skin in water and scrub off the dead or damaged tissue. This was the case for the attached graphic photo. This injury resulted in painful treatment, antibiotics and permanent scars.
Skin contact with wet cement can also cause dermatitis. This can include itching, redness, swelling, blisters, scaling, and other changes. In addition, chromium can cause allergic dermatitis. Sensitization may result from one or many chromium exposures. After an employee becomes sensitized, even brief skin contact with small amounts of chromium can trigger a reaction. The best way to avoid injury is to minimize physical contact with dust and wet concrete.
Good Practices for PPE Selection and Use
- Use only well-fitting gloves. Remove concrete that gets inside your gloves immediately.
- Wash your hands and dry them before putting on and taking off gloves.
- Clean reusable gloves after use. Before removing gloves, clean the outside by rinsing or wiping off any wet cement. Throw out grossly contaminated or worn-out gloves.
- Protect your arms and hands by wearing a long sleeve shirt.
- Wear waterproof boots when working in concrete. Tuck pants inside and wrap duct tape around the top of the boots to seal them. Select boots that are sturdy, strong enough to resist punctures and tears, and slip resistant.
- Change out of any work clothes that become contaminated with wet.
- When kneeling on wet cement use waterproof kneepads or dry kneeboards.
- Use a HEPA respirator when there is visible dust being created. A HEPA vacuum will also help remove airborne dust, along with misting the area with water.
- Glasses should be used at all times, and add a face shield when working the chute, hose or vibrator while pouring concrete, also while grinding or chipping dry concrete.
Good Practices for Skin Care
- Wash areas of the skin that come into contact with wet cement in clean, cool water and soap. Flush thoroughly even after pain subsides and skin is clean. Flush eyes for at least 15 minutes.
- Report burns to supervisor and safety.
- Do not wash with abrasives or waterless hand cleaners.
- Avoid wearing watches and rings at work since wet cement can collect under such items.
- Do not use lanolin, petroleum jelly, or other skin softening products. These substances can trap cement residue next to the skin.