Cutting concrete is a dangerous aspect of the concrete industry. Personal protective equipment not only prevents concrete cutting-related injuries, it also can save lives.
Below is a summary of the common pieces of personal protective equipment that should be used when cutting concrete. It is important to note that your employees should receive the training on the proper selection, inspection, use, and limitation of the personal protective equipment that is used when cutting concrete.
- Respirators: OSHA Standard 1910.134
Respirators provide protection from airborne particles that cause lung damage or that may be toxic. The proper type of respirator will vary on the exposure. During concrete cutting operations, respirator protection usually is used to provide protection from dusts and mists. Employees who wear respirators must be trained according to a safety program that details respirator fi t, testing, medical evaluations, and training in use and limitations of the respirators.
All respirators are not the same. When using a paper dust mask respirator, use only those recognized by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). Single-strap paper dust masks do not provide protection from dangerous dusts or mists. You should consult the safety supply company your fi rm uses to ensure you are providing the proper respirators for your employees.
Exposure to silica dust can occur during concrete sawing and drilling operations. The fi rst line of defense against exposure to silica dust is to use wet cutting methods. Respirators are a secondary protection to be used only after wet methods of cutting or other engineering controls are considered.
- Safety Glasses: OSHA Standard 1926.102
When cutting concrete, safety glasses are the most basic form of personal protective equipment. If eye injuries are possible, approved safety glasses are a must. Approved safety glasses have an imprint that reads: Z-87.1. This indicates that the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approves them.
Safety glasses should be a required piece of equipment at all times. Companies that have adopted an 'upon exposure' policy often fi nd their employees working without safety glasses because they forgot to put them on when they began to cut concrete or other at risk operations.
- Hard Hat: OSHA Standard 1926.100
Hard hats are another key piece of safety equipment. Approved hard hats meet ANSI Z89.1 standards and should be labeled as such. The two key safety elements of hard hats are the shell and the suspension.
The shell of the hard hat will provide protection from falling objects and serve as a barrier. The suspension of the hard hat will absorb and distribute the impact force across the crown of the skull. In doing so, the impact force is lessened substantially.
Hard hats must be maintained in good condition. Hard hats with cracked shells or damaged suspensions must be removed from use. Holes should never be drilled in hard hats to provide ventilation. Drilling holes in the shell will reduce the strength and the protection factor of the shell.
- High-visibility Clothing: OSHA Standard 1926.106
Employees working in or near the roadway must wear high-visibility clothing or a vest. The purpose is to identify location of workers to motorists. The requirements for special color of the clothing may vary depending on operation. For example, high-visibility orange for workers and high-visibility lime green for flaggers. Local jurisdictions may have additional requirements for total square inches of high-visibility clothing and refl ective qualities.
- Hearing Protection: OSHA Standard 1926.101
Use of hearing protection is a matter of common sense when engaged in concrete sawing and drilling operations. The noise level reduction values may vary between earplugs and earmuffs. When using earplugs, they should be changed often to limit the potential for ear infection from inserting plugs directly into the ear. Employee training should include proper insertion of the earplug into the ear canal. For the best protection, the employee should pull up slightly on the top of the ear with one hand to straighten the ear canal while inserting the earplug. This method will provide a better fit and overall noise reduction.
Earmuffs also can be very effective. However, their effectiveness may be reduced when employees are wearing safety glasses because it may affect the fit over the ear. It is important to note that safety glasses are recommended at all times.
If employees are exposed to noise levels averaging greater than 90 dBA for longer than eight hours, administrative or engineering controls must be used. Administrative controls may include job rotation as well as implementing a hearing conservation program. Engineering controls may include methods that actually reduce noise levels.
- Protective Footwear: OSHA Standard 1926.96
Protective footwear may vary based on the operation. Solid over the-ankle, leather work boots should always be worn when cutting concrete. They provide protection from abrasions and twisted ankles. If the removal of concrete sections is required, safety toe or metatarsalprotective footwear is needed.
In general, safety toe shoes are recommended for use by employees engaging in concrete sawing and drilling operations. Depending on the degree of hazard, metatarsal covers would be best. Metatarsals provide covering from the tip of the boot and the top of the foot. Metatarsalprotective footwear is recommended for demolition operations as well.