Eye exposure to Portland cement and
similar products can cause severe burns
A worker at a cement plant was carrying an 18-litre pail half full of Portland cement powder known to be corrosive down a flight of stairs. The pail did not have a lid on it. While switching the pail from one hand to the other, the worker accidentally dropped it. A cloud of cement powder engulfed him, getting in under his loose-fitting safety glasses and into his eyes. The cement powder got caked in his eyes.
A co-worker helped him to the emergency eyewash station about 180 metres (600 feet) away. The worker's eyes were flushed for 30 minutes before paramedics were called. By the time the worker received medical treatment in hospital, he had suffered a serious injury to one eye.
How dangerous is eye exposure to Portland cement?
Portland cement powder is corrosive. Similar building products are also corrosive: concrete, masonry, mortar, and concrete patching and levelling mixes. Eye contact with these powders can cause irritation, chemical burns, and even blindness. The treatment must be immediate and effective to prevent serious eye injuries.
Protecting your eyes from exposure to Portland cement
Prevent your eyes from being exposed to cement and similar corrosive building materials with these safe work practices:
Safe workplace procedures
Employers must warn their workers about the corrosiveness of Portland cement. They must make sure that their workers review the material safety data sheet (MSDS) on Portland cement and similar corrosive materials. They must also conduct risk assessments for jobs that expose workers to Portland cement and implement the appropriate control measures.
Employers must also have specific written safety procedures for handling Portland cement and similar corrosive materials. The procedures should include the following instructions:
What to do if your eyes have been exposed to Portland cement
First aid for eye exposures to Portland cement
Employers must keep up-to-date written first aid procedures for treating corrosive eye injuries. They must inform their workers about these procedures in training sessions and regular safety meetings. The written procedures must include instructions to the first aid attendant for responding correctly to a first aid call.
Employers are also responsible for providing the following:
What the first aid attendant should know and do
Eye exposure to Portland cement requires immediate first aid attention. A trained first aid attendant must be familiar with the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for Portland cement and similar products. It is the attendant's responsibility to follow the treatment procedures in the Occupational First Aid Training Manual for eye exposures to corrosive materials.
First aid attendants must follow these steps when treating someone whose eyes have been exposed to Portland cement or similar corrosive materials:
WorkSafeBC Prevention Information Line: (604) 276-3100 or toll-free 1-888-621-SAFE (7233) or visit our web site at www.WorkSafeBC.com