Working With Cement? Be Sure to Guard Your Skin!

April 3, 2017
Image: reddit.com

Cement burns. Image: reddit.com

Cement – where would a builder be without it? Working with a sack or two of “Joe” is an everyday part of the job. And there are hordes of construction workers who have used it all their working life without ever experiencing what you see in the photo above.

But cement is still a dangerous chemical. The point is, it has a pH of 12 or 13, making it strongly alkaline. Human skin is around pH 4.5. So cement is bound to irritate. This can lead to allergic skin conditions, the drying of the skin, dermatitis, or in the worst case, cement burns.

It’s not just the exposed areas of skin that are at risk. The dry dust penetrates your clothing as you work, where it mixes with sweat, and some of the resulting mix ends up having a heat reaction on your skin. Knees can suffer when screed laying, and calves and ankles if you get cement down your wellies or boots.


Dermatitis. Image: hse.gov.uk

The trouble is, sensations of pain don’t come right away, and by the time they do, the damage could be done. That’s why a risk assessment should always include the dangers of working with cement. Site managers should consider taking these precautions:

A running water supply (or a tank with 7 gallons of water per worker on the site).

Some pH neutral (or slightly acidic) soap

Suitable PPE workwear like kneepads, gloves (and, if you’re working in a tight, badly ventilated place, a face mask). Long sleeves are always best, and tuck your trouser legs into your socks for a better seal.

To find out more, here’s an informative Slideshare presentation, 10 Tips for Working Safely Around Cement.  The UK Health & Safety Executive produce an information sheet on cement safety: download it here.






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