Concrete workers can prevent skin problems with some simple hygiene tips. Unfortunately, many mixer-truck drivers and others who routinely come in contact with fresh concrete probably do not recognize the caustic state of their handshakes. One cause of hand redness and skin irritation in workers appears to be caustic cement residue, which can be measured by testing for higher-than- natural skin-surface pH.According Dr. Boris Lushniak, M.D., a prime investigator at NIOSH's Cincinnati statistical research office, skin diseases account for 20% of all work-related diseases, and annual treatments cost $222 million to $1 billion. Using 1997 data from OSHA filings, Lushniak estimates that workers using portland cement account for 25% of all work-related cases of skin disease.FOF Communications has developed a worker training program, an employer handbook, and a manual for safety and health practitioners on evaluating, controlling, and preventing contact dermatitis from cement. Research for these products led a consortium supported by the Center to Protect Workers' Rights to recommend several best practices that employers and concrete workers can adopt to avoid skin problems.

  • Wash with clean running water two to four times a shift.
  • Avoid using any creams or protectors.
  • Wash with a pH-neutral soap.
  • Keep the insides of work gloves clean.
  • See a physician for even minor skin problems.

A table listing pH value and rating of various soap brands is included. Keywords: handshake, skin, hygiene, hand, caustic, Center for Protecting Workers' Rights, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH, CPWR, pH, FOF Communications, contact, dermatitis, irritant, allergic, soap, Portland Cement Association, PCA, cement burn, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, NRMCA