Companies that do nothing to prevent to cement burns suffered by the users of their concrete risk being held liable. In many recent cases, courts have found concrete producers liable for failing to provide an adequate warning of cement-burn hazards.
Physicians call cement-related skin problems contact dermatitis, of which there are two types: irritant and allergic. Irritant contact dermatitis--what most people call a cement burn--is a rash caused by skin contact with a chemical or substance that causes direct injury to skin cells. The alkalinity, abrasiveness and hygroscopic nature of wet concrete can cause irritant contact dermatitis. Allergic contact dermatitis is a rash caused by skin contact with a chemical substance that penetrates the skin and triggers an allergic reaction. Between 5% and 15% of workers exposed to wet concrete may be very sensitive to chemical compounds in the concrete, primarily hexavalent chromium.
Allergic contact dermatitis is a serious medical problem and is much more difficult to control than irritant dermatitis. According to medical experts, treatments for allergic contact dermatitis have limited success. Some experts have proposed removing hexavalent chromium from portland cement as a solution, but attempts to do this in the United States have encountered numerous difficulties. Changing the allergic worker's job assignment may be the only solution in some cases.
What should ready-mixed concrete producers do to prevent cement burns and minimize the risk of being held liable in cement burn litigation?
Adequate product warnings are required under various federal laws and regulations including the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Federal Hazardous Substance Act (FHSA) and the Hazard Communication standard of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Producers should have a program and procedures for warning concrete users that contact with the product can cause injury. Give contractors the necessary Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs). Make sure concrete delivered to homeowners and other casual consumers has cautionary labeling required by FHSA. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) agrees with the industry's practice of providing cautionary labeling on a bill of sale, delivery ticket or other document presented to the purchaser. (The CPSC-approved warning is shown in a related article.) The warning requires the concrete user to convey the warning to all persons who come in contact with the wet concrete.
The article includes a copy of a new standard cement-burn warning and information about a buffering solution that helps control irritant and allergic contact dermatitis.
KEYWORDS:cement burn, MSDS, safety