Hose whippings are one of the more prominent and deadly accidents associated with the use of a concrete pump,” wrote Christi Collins, executive director of the American Concrete Pumping Association. “The use of the type of device shown on the cover of January Concrete Construction can increase the likelihood of serious or even fatal injury should a hose whip. This is why the ACPA does not recommend their use.”
Jobsite safety is something we take seriously at CC. So we were very disheartened to learn that we were showing an unsafe practice on the cover. The issue is with the S-bend on the end of the pump hose. This device is intended to stop the concrete from free falling onto the deck and losing some of its entrained air. The pumping contractor on this project was using this device—indeed was required to use this device—when the boom had a sharp bend resulting in a long drop to the deck; they removed the S-bend when the boom had a flatter configuration.
The problem with this practice is that if there is a sudden release of air from the pump—when the pump hopper is allowed to run out of concrete—it creates hose whip and the weight of the S-elbow on the hose end can cause serious injury to the hose operator and anyone else in its path. ACPA offers several alternatives to this setup, including changing the boom configuration to minimize vertical drop, using reducers in the hose, and placing the S-elbow at the end of the boom and using a rubber hose below to move the weight of the elbow away from workers.
But in this case, the issue is not as clear as it might seem, since both the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation require the use of an S-elbow. Joan Anderson, owner of Anderson Concrete Pumping, South Holland, Ill., the project’s pumping contractor, offers no apology. “We were required by all of the inspectors from the City of Chicago to use this on the pump hose,” she says. “I went to many meetings with them and took all of the documents from ACPA and showed them the reducers but they wouldn’t listen. I wouldn’t use this setup if it wasn’t required, but I want the work, so I have to do it this way.”
Anyone who’s spent much time on construction sites has seen unsafe practices used either intentionally or through ignorance—maybe even the ignorance of the customer. And most of us have complained about overzealous safety inspectors. But CC’s position is to always show and describe safe practices and to never take safety lightly. Sometimes, though, we fall into the ignorance trap and show something that is not safe. When that happens, as it did with our January cover, we will be the first to point out the mistake and will take every opportunity to explain the issue.