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Wet concrete and skin don’t mix

24 March 2005

Wet concrete and skin don’t mix

Kneeling in wet concrete for up to an hour left two Otago construction workers with third-degree burns and needing skin grafts.

The Department of Labour’s occupational safety and health service investigated the incident last May, and charged the men’s employer, Calder Development Ltd, under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

Calder Developments was today convicted in the Dunedin District Court and ordered to pay reparation of $10,000 for failing to identify the wet concrete as a workplace hazard and provide the workers with proper protective clothing. No fine was imposed.

OSH Otago manager Mark Murray said freshly mixed, wet concrete was extremely alkaline, and prolonged contact with skin could cause chemical burns. Amputation was possible in severe cases.

In May last year, the two workers, who were wearing thin cotton overalls, knelt on wet concrete to level the floor of a sump. The skin on their shins and knees was exposed to the concrete for up to an hour before they noticed any discomfort. They ended up being hospitalised for eight days and needed skin grafts.

Mr Murray said by the time a person became aware of cement burns, the damage had already been done. The burn could continue to get worse even after the cement had been rinsed off.

“Our advice is simple – wear the proper protective gear and avoid exposing skin to wet concrete or cement. That goes for construction workers or home DIYers.”

He said the company failed its duties to employees because it didn’t warn them of the dangers of working with wet concrete, or ensured that they wore appropriate protective gear such as rubber boots, heavy grade PVC gloves, and leggings to minimise skin contact with the wet cement.


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