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About Concrete Block (CMU)

Concrete block plays an important role in the construction industry. It is a versatile material that is used in a variety of ways. It also is one of the materials whose dust has the potential to be harmful. This means it is important to be familiar not only with its composition, but also what can be done to protect workers from dust that is generated by concrete masonry units (a.k.a. cinder blocks, concrete blocks).

Concrete Block Composition

It may seem simplistic, but understanding what concrete block is made from is a key to understanding why it is so important to contain the dust generated from them when on a constuction site. So what is a concrete block composed of? Wikipedia explains it this way:

Concrete blocks are made from cast concrete (e.g. Portland cement and aggregate, usually sand and fine gravel, for high-density blocks). Lower density blocks may use industrial wastes, such as fly ash or bottom ash, as an aggregate. Recycled materials, such as post-consumer glass, slag cement, or recycled aggregate, are often used in the composition of the blocks.

As you can see from the above quote, blocks are made in various densities and may contain a variety of materials including:

  • Cement
  • Sand
  • Gravel
  • Glass

So then, it stands to reason that this construction material is able to be used for a number of things. In fact, let's look some of those now.

How Concrete Blocks Are Used

Concrete block is used in the construction of house foundations. This type of foundation is common for suburban houses. Concrete blocks form the perimeter of the crawl space and then these are used to support the floor joists. Another use for concrete blocks is the building of retaining walls. In fact, cinder blocks are found being used for all sorts of practical furnishings including:

  • Benches
  • Tables
  • Shelving
  • Planters
  • Flower Beds

That list is not comprehensive, but it demonstrates very well, how versatile this building material is. Yet even though it is versatile, using concrete blocks for construction can, in some situations, present hazards.

Dust From Concrete Blocks

As practical and useful as concrete blocks are, they are listed in our compilation of materials that product harmful construction dust because of the materials of which they are made. As a result, when they are broken, drilled, chiseled, or cut using a saw they generate dust that contains potentially harmful particles. Therefore, if you use concrete blocks in your construction projects, be sure to be familiar various kinds of construction dust collectors. Effective dry dust collection solutions assist in keeping the air of the work environment as free of harmful dust as possible.

As we have seen in this brief consideration of concrete blocks (or concrete masonry units), they are a handy building material to have and are used for solving all sorts of problems in a variety of ways. Yet they can put off hazardous dust because of the material of which they are made. Because of this, their use should be by those that are familiar with the guidelines for protecting workers from silica dust in construction environments.

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