Guide to working safely with cement

Cement is a binding agent, which sets and therefore adheres different materials to each other.

The majority of major construction projects are likely to involve working with cement. It has long been used in the building industry and has many properties that make it ideal for constructing everything from small houses to towering office blocks.

As well as being easy to work with, it is fairly inexpensive and is extremely durable - you only have to look at the length of time buildings stand for to see how long cement can last. Cement can also be used to create concrete, which is when sand, gravel or crushed stone - also known as aggregates - are added to a mixture of water and cement.

Its properties mean most construction companies will work with it at some point, whether they are a large organisation with thousands of workers, or a small firm that uses tool hire services and works on smaller-scale jobs.

But it can be dangerous if not used or worked with correctly. The HSE states that all sites and cement users must follow the Assess, Control, Review model:

  • Assess and identify where it will be used, when, what for and who will be using it
  • Control its use. Ensure it remains only where needed, and that it is used properly. Wear the correct PPE and take precautions
  • Review its use. Constantly monitor and oversee its use and keep health documentation up to date, as well as an incident log.

How to work safely with cement

As with many aspects of working on a building site, dealing with cement and concrete is not without its risks. Protective equipment is required and workers need to be properly trained to prevent incidents involving both themselves and other employees.

Contractors can use equipment hire services to ensure they have all the right tools to carry out the project to a high standard, while this guide will go over some of the associated issues in more detail. It will also discuss some of the matters building contractors have to be aware of when taking on a project that involves working with cement.

Protect your face & skin

Cement, as mentioned, is designed to adhere to surfaces. If it came into contact with skin, not only is it hard to get off, but it could also cause irritation and potentially burns. Cement has a pH of 12 to 13.8, which is highly alkaline. In the long term, contact will increase the skin's sensitivity and inflammation, and can also cause it to sag or wrinkle.

Prolonged contact will make these worse. If your cement is concrete, and contains abrasives such as sand, this is even more dangerous upon immediate contact.

Protect your skin by wearing clothing which covers all exposed skin, such as arms and legs, to avoid cement splashing onto skin. Protect clothing with disposable covers if required, and always wear gloves.

You should also wear a mask and eye protection to avoid inhaling any of the cement or causing any getting into your eye. Even just rubbing your eye could cause irritation. If working on a site, a hard hat is also necessary.

Be aware of the weight

Cement is very heavy, even before it has set. When lifting cement, remember that it is just like any other heavy material; your back should be straight, legs bent, and the weight between your legs as close to the body as possible.

Cement should always be pushed and not lifted into its designated end place, too.

Ensure everybody is trained to use the machinery

Hiring a cement mixer? Ensure that everyone who operates the equipment knows what they are doing.

When you hire anything from Speedy Services, it will come with operating instructions and safety guidance. It will also have been checked over since it was last hired out. But it is your responsibility to follow this guidance, and be safe around cement and all other equipment on a site.

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