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  • Writer's pictureCostello Safety

Concrete Product Manufacturing — Worker Safety Issues

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), of the hundreds of thousands who work in concrete product manufacturing, tens of thousands have experienced a job-related injury, illness or death. Some of the hazards these workers face include: eye and skin irritation and chemical burns; respiratory irritation and disease; inadequate safety guards and lockout/tagout systems on machinery; overexertion and awkward postures; and slips, trips and falls.

Below are some hazards and solutions that OSHA has highlighted for concrete manufacturers to help them create a safer working environment.

Inhalation Hazard:

Exposure to cement dust can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and upper respiratory system. Over-exposure to trace amounts of hexavalent chromium present in cement can cause lung cancer. Silica dust from aggregates can lead to lung injuries including silicosis and lung cancer. Fumes from welding rebar, and chemicals used for form release, sealing finished products, and other purposes can also cause respiratory problems.


Provide local ventilation systems. Wear a P-, N- or R-95 respirator to minimize inhalation of dust. Other chemicals may require different types of respirators. Eat and drink only in dust-free areas to avoid ingesting cement dust.

Wet Concrete:

Exposure to wet concrete can result in skin irritation or even first-, second- or third-degree chemical burns. Compounds such as hexavalent chromium may also be harmful.


Wear alkali-resistant gloves, coveralls with long sleeves and full-length pants, waterproof boots and eye protection. Wash contaminated skin areas with cold, running water as soon as possible. Rinse eyes splashed with wet concrete with water for at least 15 minutes and then go to the hospital for further treatment.

Skin/Eye Hazard:

Exposure to cement dust or to wet concrete can result in skin and eye irritation, thickening/cracking of skin, or even first-, second- or third-degree chemical burns. Hexavalent chromium can cause severe allergic contact dermatitis.


Wear alkali-resistant gloves, coveralls with long sleeves and full length pants, and waterproof boots. Wear eye protection when chipping and cleaning mixers, forms or finished products; when dumping cement and aggregate; and when pouring concrete. Wash contaminated skin areas with cold, running water as soon as possible. Rinse eyes with water for at least 15 minutes and seek medical attention.

Machine Guarding Hazard:

Unguarded machinery can lead to worker injuries.


Maintain equipment to avoid jamming and use proper controls (guarding or lockout/tagout) in clearing jams. Ensure that guards are in place to protect workers using mixers, block makers, conveyors, cubers, rebar benders and cutters, prestressing tendons, etc.. Protect prestressing tendons from damage. Prevent employees from placing any part of their body in line with tendons being stressed. Establish and follow effective lockout/tagout procedures when servicing equipment Be sure appropriate guards are in place on power tools before using them.

Confined Space Hazard:

Mixers and ready-mix trucks have confined spaces.


Follow established procedures for confined space entry and lockout/tagout. Guard against heat stress when cleaning mixer drums. Wear appropriate protective equipment to avoid silica and noise exposure when removing concrete residues from inside mixer drums.

Falling Object Hazard:

Workers may be hit by falling or flying objects from conveyor belt systems, elevators, overhead hoists, concrete block stacking equipment, etc.


Guard areas beneath elevators, conveyor belts and other machinery from which material can fall, to prevent access to these areas by workers and/or to catch falling material. Avoid overloading cranes and hoists, and do not allow loads to pass over employees. Wear hard hats when appropriate

Ergonomics Hazard:

Improper lifting, awkward postures and repetitive motions can lead to sprains, strains and other musculoskeletal disorders.


Use forklifts, hand trucks, and other material handling equipment when possible. Lift properly and get a coworker to help if a product is too heavy. Avoid twisting while carrying a load. Shift your feet and take small steps in the direction you want to turn. Keep floors clear to avoid slipping and tripping hazards. Avoid working in awkward postures.

Vehicle Hazard:

Poorly maintained or improperly handled vehicles can lead to crushing injuries.


Make sure back-up alarms on all vehicles are functioning. Use care with the load-out chute on concrete mixers to avoid injuries to hands and fingers. Beware of hot surfaces on equipment and truck components. Wear eye protection against splashes during loading and unloading. Use hearing protection if needed to guard against excessive noise exposure during concrete loading/unloading.

Concrete Safety & Health Resources:

Most resource materials can be found on the OSHA website at

Physical Hazards

Confined Space Downloadable electronic advisor software (1997), 2MB. This software guides the user in identifying confined spaces and protecting workers who enter them.

Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) OSHA Publication 3120 (2002), 174KB PDF, 45 pages. This booklet provides guidance on protecting workers against unexpected energy releases from mechanical and electrical equipment.

Lockout/Tagout e-Tool Interactive online training program (1999). This e-Tool offers an overview of OSHA's Lockout/Tagout standard, including interactive case studies.

Materials Handling and Storage OSHA Publication 2226 (2002), 559KB PDF, 41 pages. This booklet outlines OSHA requirements covering handling and storing materials, focusing on forklift safety and ergonomics.

Permit-Required Confined Spaces OSHA Publication 3138 (2004), 486KB PDF, 22 pages. This booklet covers highlights of the OSHA standard for confined spaces.

Safeguarding Equipment and Protecting Workers from Amputations OSHA Publication 3071 (2001), 1.2MB PDF, 78 pages. This booklet offers guidance on machine guarding and other safe practices to reduce the risk of amputations.

Sling Safety OSHA Publication 3072 (1996), 866KB PDF, 28 pages. This booklet covers all aspects of sling safety.

Stairways and Ladders OSHA Publication 3124 (2003), 155KB PDF, 15 pages. This booklet covers safety issues related to both fixed and movable stairs and ladders.

Health Hazards

Crystalline Silica Exposure Card for General Industry OSHA Publication 3176 (2003), 37KB PDF; OSHA Publication 3178 (Spanish) (2003), 42KB PDF. This laminated pocket card offers workers a concise summary of silica health hazards and lists precautions to take to limit exposure.

Crystalline Silica OSHA Fact Sheet (2002), 52KB PDF, 2 pages, also in Spanish (2003). This Fact Sheet highlights the hazards of silica and provides guidance on preventing exposures.

Silica e-Tool Downloadable electronic software (1998). This e-Tool describes the hazards of silica and offers guidance on protecting workers.

Hazard Communication Guidelines for Compliance OSHA Publication 3111 (2000), 112KB PDF, 33 pages. This booklet provides an overview of OSHA's Hazard Communication standard and gives specific guidance on compliance.

Hearing Conservation OSHA Publication 3074 (2002), 157KB PDF, 32 pages. The booklet explains how to establish an effective hearing conservation program that meets OSHA requirements.

Personal Protective Equipment OSHA Publication 3151 (2004), 629KB PDF, 46 pages. This booklet offers guidance on when and how to use personal protective equipment to guard against occupational injuries and illnesses.

Respiratory Protection OSHA Publication 3079 (2002), 273KB PDF, 42 pages. This booklet outlines OSHA requirements on respiratory protection and offers guidance on establishing an effective respiratory protection program.

Respiratory Protection e-Tool Downloadable electronic software (1998). This e-Tool enables users to determine whether they need to establish a respiratory protection program and what type of respirators to use.

Small Entity Compliance Guide for OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard OSHA (1999), 706KB PDF, 149 pages. This booklet provides help for small businesses seeking to meet OSHA requirements for respiratory protection programs.

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