Contact of the skin with fresh concrete, mortar or grout can lead to severe chemical burns requiring repeated skin grafts, and can result in permanent crippling injuries and even in attempts at suicide. Why do a few workers get burned each month while thousands don't? A study of case histories provides several clues: Those injured were often either novices in placing and handling concrete or they were experienced workers who had grown careless after years of good working practices; exposure of the skin, generally to clothing saturated with concrete juices, had occurred for an extended period, usually several hours; areas of the skin where abrasion also had occurred (such as knees, or leg areas where the tops of boots or shoes had rubbed) were almost always involved. We conclude from our studies that injury requires ignorance of, or lack of respect for, the potential chemical dangers of concrete and, the "right" set of circumstances.

The Portland Cement Association has published pamphlets on safety with concrete, and many cement manufacturers print warnings on bags and on invoices for bulk cement. But the worker seldom sees such information. We suggest the following efforts: Establish a practice whereby those receiving ready mixed concrete sign a notice that informs that exposure of the skin can cause first-, second-, or third-degree burns, promotes use of rubber boots, water-resistant clothing and other protective gear, and suggests thoroughly washing the skin whenever solutions from the concrete have penetrated the clothing and can directly contact the skin. We also suggest having ready-mix drivers inform homeowners verbally of such dangers.

Fresh concrete is a marvelous, low-cost engineering material that is handled by tens of thousands of workers each year with few injuries. But the disfiguration of at least a few of those workers can be prevented if we mount the effort.