Concrete is a long-lasting, budget-friendly material used for everything from walls to highways. Formal training is generally not required for workers who handle concrete, but it's important to stay up to date on safety techniques so you know the correct way to handle this material, especially since reports indicate the need for concrete contractors will increase over the next few years.
As your workload increases, so does the potential risk of injuries, because you are exposed to concrete products more frequently. Follow the helpful safety tips below so you are physically able to handle long-term employment in your chosen profession.
Store Supplies Carefully
If supplies are not stored the right way, you can get injured before you even enter the building or set foot on the road your company is working on. Concrete blocks can fall on you or another contractor, potentially resulting in bruises, broken bones, or serious head injuries. Open bags of concrete mix can leak onto a worker, which may may make it difficult to breathe or cause eye pain. Help prevent these issues from occurring by doing the following:
- Work with another contractor to lift and carry large, heavy blocks or bags of mix that weigh more than 50 pounds so you do not hurt your backs
- Make sure concrete blocks are stacked directly on top of each other, rather than haphazardly, so they are less likely to fall
- Purchase products in resealable containers or use duct tape, staples, or similar products to ensure the container remains closed
- Ask your boss to invest in pallet jacks or other industrial equipment if your company frequently uses heavy supplies
Purchase Safety Gear
More than 10% of contractors who work in the concrete manufacturing field are injured each year, and some of those injuries are deadly. Protect yourself by stocking up on the safety gear you need to get the job done, including:
- Respirators or face masks that block exposure to dangerous dust from powdered concrete mixes
- Thick, heat-resistant gloves that protect wrists and fingers from chemical burns or hot equipment
- Sturdy steel-toe boots that remain intact if a heavy chunk of concrete falls on your feet
- Thick goggles that stop airborne particles from entering the eyes
Depending on the typical conditions of the work area, you may have additional needs. For example, contractors who spend extended periods of time in wet or humid areas may need waterproof pants or jackets. Your employer may reimburse you for some of your safety gear if you purchase it from an approved vendor, so talk to your boss before you decide which products to get.
Discuss Safety Often
Workplace safety should not be a one-time discussion, so talk to your supervisor about scheduling regular meetings to discuss safety violations or the proper use of protective gear. There are also other ideas you can help your boss implement to promote workplace safety, including:
- Daily safety checklists must be signed and dated by every employee
- Wall posts reminding workers how many accident-free days the company has had so far
- Awards, such as gift cards or additional paid vacation time, for employees who regularly practice safe working habits
- Internal safety inspections performed by fellow contractors a few times a month so that issues like damaged equipment or poorly organized shelves are caught immediately
If your company works in a different location each time you accept a new project, you may not have a wall where you can display safety data. Consider passing out flyers once a week or sending out emails to all of your coworkers to let them know how things have been going. Your supervisor may be hesitant to implement some of these ideas at first, but that's okay. You can still execute the first two safety suggestions in this article without any help from your boss.
Staying safe in the workplace is a priority, whether you work with ready-mix or hand-mix concrete products. Talk to your boss and coworkers about your commitment to safety, and do your best to practice safe work habits when you're on the clock.
Worried some of your materials are still unsafe, even after wearing protective gear and taking other precautions? Help your supervisor choose safe, effective concrete supplies for every job by discussing your projects with a knowledgeable representative from a reputable concrete manufacturer.