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Research That Matters, Part 4: Health & Safety

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For the RMC Research & Education Foundation's 30th anniversary, we're taking a closer look at its contributions. In this final installment, we look at what the Foundation is doing to advance safety in concrete production, delivery, and construction and to protect public health.

Working in concrete production, delivery, and construction can be dangerous but it doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be. Safety starts with company leaders who are fully committed to eliminating safety risks to their workers. That leads to workers who are properly trained, and who follow the rules and insist that everyone else does, too. To help advance safety and health in the concrete industry, the RMC Research & Education Foundation has produced tools and resources across the spectrum.

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Safety in Concrete Production

A concrete production plant has lots of moving parts that can present safety risks. The RMCREF has funded the development of a 15-minute comprehensive plant safety video that covers all the necessary basics related to safety at a ready-mixed concrete plant. This video is free on the Foundation’s YouTube Channel.

The U.S. ready mixed concrete industry is characterized by a strong focus on worker safety and health as demonstrated by the industry’s low worker injury rates compared to average worker injury rates in the U.S. Despite this strong safety ethic, there was concern from OSHA about plant workers' exposure to hexavalent chromium. The Hexavalent Chromium Personal Exposure Study, sponsored by the Foundation, collected exposure data from four ready mixed concrete facilities and found exposure rates to be significantly lower than OSHA’s suggested personal exposure level. The study provided an assurance to employers and employees that there is extremely low inhalation exposure to hexavalent chromium in a production plant.

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Safety in Concrete Delivery

The concrete in a fully loaded concrete mixer truck can weigh as much as 40,000 pounds (20 tons). And that huge load is being delivered to construction sites that can be a frenzy of activity with unstable ground and confusing directions from untrained construction workers. That puts a lot of responsibility on the mixer truck driver, who climbs up and down steps and ladders to their truck cabs and discharge hoppers 10 or more times a day. To train drivers to know how to protect himself, his cargo, and the crews at the job site, the Foundation has developed a series of online training videos, including the Backing Accident Prevention Program, Concrete Mixer Truck Rules for Using a Backing Spotter, Lockout/Tryout/Tagout, and Pre-Trip Inspection (for both front- and rear-discharge mixers). Administered through the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, the student can watch the videos as many times as they want and then they take a 10-question quiz. Once they score 100% on the quiz, which they can take multiple times, proof of training is automatically generated.

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Safety in Concrete Construction

Although the safety training videos developed by the Foundation are focused on the concrete mixer truck driver, everyone on a construction site would benefit from this training. For example, the spotter discussed in Concrete Mixer Truck Rules for Using a Backing Spotter, is most often an employee of the contractor who must know the proper hand and arm signals and understand the challenges faced by the driver. Spotters must always maintain visual contact with the driver while navigating jobsite distractions such as formwork, excavations, reinforcing steel, other vehicles and equipment, and workers.  

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Protecting the Public

RMCREF research doesn’t end with those in the industry but also looks at the ways in which concrete structures protect the public and what the industry is doing to keep the public safe. 

For years, concrete producers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not have an accurate assessment of actual emissions of particulate matter from ready mixed concrete plants. To better understand these emissions and the effect they have on air quality, the Foundation funded the Air Emissions Testing Program at Ready Mixed Concrete Plants that developed a testing protocol and program, collected the data from a representative number of concrete plants, and established verifiable emission factors. This information was used by NRMCA and EPA to make changes to EPA’s AP-42, Chapter 11.12. Since operating permit fees are based on emission rates, the adoption of the Foundation’s data has resulted in an estimated 25% reduction in permit fees for concrete plants. It also reassured the public that concrete plants are not significant sources of particulate pollution.

To demonstrate the value of concrete structures, RMCREF funded the Hurricane Katrina Forensic Study to learn what role building materials and building codes play in preventing or contributing to structural damage from weather-related incidents, such as those that occurred during Hurricane Katrina. This study assessed how structures performed in hurricane conditions under the building codes at the time and proposed new ways to communicate the storm surge danger for a hurricane with the public and responders. The full report is available in hardcopy by contacting Jennifer LeFevre. The Foundation emphasizes that no one can put a price on life safety and the importance of having strong building codes in areas susceptible to hurricanes,

 

Through this series of articles (scroll down to see links to the other three articles), the reader can begin to understand the impact the RMC Research & Educaitoln Foundation has had on the concrete industry over the past 30 years. Today, the Foundation administers a $27 million endowment that seeds innovation across the industry. .Contributions to the RMC Research & Education Foundation support research and educational programs to improve and advance the concrete industry. As a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, contributions to the Foundation are fully tax deductible. To learn more about how to become a supporter, click  Contribute - RMC Research & Education Foundation (rmc-foundation.org)

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