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Date PostedAugust 19, 2012

White Card Update: Concrete Drilling and Cutting Safety in Construction

The proper manner of concrete drilling and cutting is an issue not often discussed on the construction safety sites. That is why we have decided to spread some light on the issue here for those workers that may be unsure.  Research into the topic suggests that the main thing construction workers should remember is to use the Right Tools.  

Use of the correct bit or blade is important to ensure a safe and accurate cut when drilling, hammering and cutting concrete.  A wood bit or a metal saw blade is not recommended as it is probably not going to do the job properly and will most likely cause undue stress and tension on the equipment and concrete.

The use of incorrect materials can also cause the bit to snap off which will damage the equipment and has often been the cause of injury to people nearby.  Workers attempting to cut concrete should know the depth and width of the cut or hole they require and utilise the correct tools to make the hole cleanly and safely.

Importance of Personal Protective Equipment

No construction worker should ever go without the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), which employers have a duty to provide and train workers in the correct use of. Workers who are tasked with cutting or drilling concrete should be provided with the appropriate PPE to perform this task, in line with Australian standards. Workers should be trained on the appropriate PPE to use and how to utilise it correctly.  In controlling the risk of the hazards involved in cutting concrete, PPE should always be worn, however PPE should not be the only control measure but in fact the last step in controlling the risks. The law allocates the bulk of responsibility of workplace health and safety on the employer, who must ensure they have taken the appropriate action to eliminate or minimise the hazard as far as reasonably possible.

Covering your eyes and ears is vitally important in concrete cutting and drilling as these 2 features are most likely to be affected in an accident situation. The reason for this is because drilling and cutting concrete causes dust and particles to be expelled into the air making the person doing the job vulnerable.  These particles can hit into the sensitive eye area. This can cause a variety of injuries from mild irritation, swelling to serious lacerations. These consequences can be avoided by simply wearing the appropriate eye protection. Workers should never attempt to use regular sunglasses because these do not meet the necessary safety standards and can in fact worsen the extent of the injury of they break and pieces splinter into the eye.

The ears also need to be protected because drilling concrete or hammering creates loud, constant noise that can cause damage to the ear. Ear protection such as plugs or headsets will reduce the risk of inner ear injury, which can be extremely painful.

These small particles emitted by the cutting or drilling process combine with the dust that forms from the concrete cutting. These small particles can enter the lungs and affect breathing through the noise or mouth. It can also enter the throat and cause irritation or internal injuries.

Because concrete contains chemical compounds known as crystalline silica that are dangerous and can cause scarring in the lungs, water should be used around the cut to cool the bit and minimise the dust emitted into the air. Otherwise serious infections or diseases can result , that is why breathing protection is also a necessity when working with concrete cutting or drilling.

Another important tip is to have someone standing by in case of an emergency. If your equipment does not automatically spray water, a person can stand by who sprays using a spray bottle. They can wet the area around the cut to keep bits and blades cool and minimize the dangerous dust that is released into the air.

Also part of the PPE requirement is that you wear proper safety boots,that can protect your feet should a piece of concrete fall on them. Thick padded gloves will help to minimise the risk of cutting your hands or crushing your fingers.

Construction workers who follow advice, remember their safety training and adhere to the sites safety rules are a valuable asset to any construction site and will be highly regarded by management. Safety on site is not just the responsibility of employers, workers too can do their part to keep the site safe and incident free.

Posted by Steven Asnicar

 

Steven Asnicar is regarded as a leader across many fields of industry. In particular, his specialisation across the health, infrastructure, construction, resource and utility sectors has seen him successfully change the dynamics of these industries through the introduction of new strategic, marketing, training and technical frameworks. Steven works closely with industry peak bodies such as Safework Australia, Australian Logistics Council, National Advisory for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment (NATESE) and the Council of Australian Governments in the development of new delivery standards and industry specific programs.

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