Most construction-related jobs consist of long hours and manual labor. Depending on the position, it may also carry a level of danger. Often, employees are subject to loud noises, dust inhalation, and other hazards while on the job. Anything that can be done to help minimize danger while workers are performing their duties is encouraged by employers.
One such service necessary to mitigate hazards to personnel and the environment is a process called concrete washout. When cement is mixed with water, a chemical reaction occurs which produces a glue-like bond between particles in the cement, creating concrete. Once concrete pouring is complete for the day, shovels, wheelbarrows, the chutes of concrete mixing trucks, and the insides of the trucks’ drums must be thoroughly washed out so that all cement residue is removed. This daily process prevents any remaining concrete from hardening and creating problems for the next day’s work.
Unfortunately, this process can be harmful to the environment if not conducted properly. The water mixture created by this process is filled with toxic metals and has a pH of around 12, making it very acidic and corrosive. If this mixture falls to the ground, it can enter storm drains and taint natural streams, lakes, rivers, and even the ocean. This can cause harm to the fish population, damaging the reproductive system, and throwing an entire ecosystem unbalanced.
Because of the toxicity of the water mixture, workers who are tasked with washing out the concrete must use a great deal of caution to ensure that the water does not come into contact with their skin or eyes. It is pertinent that the water mixture is collected and properly retained in watertight containers until it is time to recycle the mixture. A series of filters are used to ensure that the toxicity of the water is removed before it is reused for future concrete washout, or used during the mixing step when creating concrete.
The process of concrete washout is simple, yet very necessary to minimize damage to the environment and to construction workers during the concrete pouting process.