Concrete dust can be very harmful. Even the slightest amount of exposure can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. Prolonged exposure can lead to lung cancer and other respiratory problems.
It is for these reasons that it is essential to protect saw machine operators from this harmful situation. PPE or Personal Protection Equipment is an absolute must. Safety first before concrete cutting.
Hazardous Materials in Concrete Dust (Wet and Dry)
Crystalline Silica – harmful to human skin and has the potential to cause lung cancer. Recent studies show prolonged exposure to crystalline silica is connected to lung cancer and other respiratory problems.
Alkaline Compounds like Calcium Oxide – corrosive to human tissues and can cause minor to severe health issues.
Chromium – even the smallest trace amount can cause severe allergies.
Harmful Effects of Concrete Dust
Eyes – can cause minor irritation up to severe and permanent damage. All trace compounds found in cement dust can get into the eyes and cause damage to the eye tissues.
Respiratory System – when inhaled through the mouth and nose, concrete dust can cause an allergic reaction, irritation of the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs.
Prolonged exposure can lead to lung cancer and other respiratory diseases like silicosis. Silicosis happens when silica particles scar your lungs. Silicosis is irreversible and incurable.
Skin – concrete dust can cause allergies, skin irritation, and other skin problems. This can range from mild and moderate skin issues through to more severe issues like:
- Skin irritation
- Cracking of the skin
- Skin ulcers
- Thickening of the skin
- Chemical burns
It is important to avoid the harmful effects of concrete dust. First, you should always opt for wet sawing where possible. It does not completely eliminate dust but it reduces dust production significantly.
For personal protection, these are the following steps one can follow to be safe:
- Use alkali-resistant gloves. This will not just protect you from cement dust, it will also be your first defence from any sawing accidents.
- Use coveralls with long sleeves and full-length trousers to keep the dust away from your skin. Make sure that your sleeves are pulled down over the gloves and the trousers are tucked inside your boots. Use duct tape over them to make sure that dust and mortar do not go inside.
- Use water-proof, high-cut boots.
- Use proper respiratory protective equipment like a P, N, or R 95 respirator. Dust is unavoidable but inhalation can be avoided.
- Use proper goggles and do not use contact lenses.
- When cutting concrete, cut wet instead of dry where possible. This will help to minimise dust production.
- Mix dry cement in open areas or well-ventilated areas.
- Use different sizes of cement blocks whey laying concrete to avoid or at least minimise cutting or hammering to make them fit.
- Work upwind from the dust sources. Avoid the dust as much as possible.
- Do not wear any accessories like watches, rings, and necklaces, because dust can accumulate on and around them.
- Avoid mixing cement on site. Use a ready-mixed concrete as much as possible.
Australian National Code of Practice requires sufficient training for individuals handling cement. They must be educated in proper methods, safety, hazards, and controls.
Skin contamination and eye irritation must be handled right away. Call for medical attention immediately.
While waiting, wash with running water right away. Avoid touching and self-medicating. Seek medical treatment right away.
Silica exposure is a serious problem. As mentioned earlier, this can lead to Silicosis. If you start to feel symptoms like cough or shortness of breath, see your doctor immediately.
Silicosis can occur only weeks after getting exposed to concrete dust or it can take years before signs and symptoms manifest.
Here are the three types of Silicosis to watch out for:
- Acute Silicosis – this is caused by exposure to high levels of crystalline silica. This can happen within months, even weeks of exposure, and can lead to death in extreme cases.
- Accelerated Silicosis – this can occur in five to ten years after exposure. This is a result of high-level crystalline silica exposure.
- Chronic Silicosis – this is the most common type of Silicosis. This is due to prolonged exposure to low levels of crystalline silica. This usually occurs after ten or more years of exposure.
Other Safety Measures
- Shower right away if possible. Wash away all dirt and cement dust.
- Use washable or disposable protective clothing.
- Do not eat or take a break near the area you are working on. You will be exposed to dust and possible inhalation.
- Have an annual medical checkup to monitor your health.
- Stay educated with proper practices, health effects, and protective equipment.
- Use dust control equipment like local exhaust ventilation or dust collectors.
- Remove collected dust right away. Do not let the dust get airborne.
- Check your dust controls regularly.
Concrete dust inhalation and contamination are dangerous. If you have projects that need concrete cutting, leave it to the professionals.
If you are looking for a specialist concrete cutting company who uses only the best practices to get the job done right, then please call us at Megasaw on 1300 920 419 or contact us through our website.