Overview

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Concrete pumping is a widely used process in the construction industry and can be used for: 

  • Manufacturing pre-cast and tilt up concrete panels
  • concrete formwork
  • slab construction 
  • concrete paving  
  • concrete spraying

Concrete can be pumped in a variety of ways, including:

  • line pumps, using trailer or truck-mounted pumps with flexible hoses
  • mobile concrete placing booms, using truck-mounted pumps with pipework supported by multi-staged booms 
  • satellite concrete placing booms, which use fixed or trailer-mounted pumps that use concrete placing booms fixed to the structure being built. 

Concrete pumping can pose many serious health and safety risks. Multiple incidents involving concrete pumping have occurred in recent years.

Managing risks

Everyone in the workplace has a WHS duty. Some duty holders have specific roles under the model WHS laws. Duty holders involved in the use of concrete placing equipment must manage risks. Duty holders include:

  • persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs)
  • designers, manufacturers, importers and/or suppliers of plant
  • other people with management or control of the plant in the workplace
  • the competent person who inspects the plant
  • the concrete placing boom owner and operator

PCBUs have specific obligations to protect the health and safety of everyone in the workplace. As a PCBU, you must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable: 

  • the health and safety of workers and others at your workplace
  • you provide and maintain a work environment that is without risks to physical and psychological health and safety
  • workers have the necessary information, training, instruction and supervision needed for them to carry out their work safely

To manage health and safety risks you must:

  • identify hazards in the workplace 
  • assess the associated risks
  • implement control measures to eliminate or minimise risks
  • regularly review control measures to ensure they remain effective

You must do these things in consultation with your workers and any health and safety representatives.

For more information, see the model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks and the model Code of Practice: Managing the risk of plant in the workplace.

Ways to control risks

You should manage risks by working through the hierarchy of control measures.  

The hierarchy of controls requires that you first aim to eliminate a risk. For example, if there is a risk of a contact with overhead electrical lines, use a line pump instead of a boom pump. 

If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate a risk, you must minimise the risk. Use one or more of the following to minimise risks, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • substitute the hazard for something safer. For example, when core filling block work, provide a working platform next to the wall instead of having the line hand walk along the top of the wall.
  • isolate the risk from workers. For example, use exclusion zones to minimise risk of crushing or trapping workers when moving the pump to work in different positions, and 
  • use engineering controls such as fitting vehicles with reversing sensors and cameras.

If a risk remains, you must minimise it so far as is reasonably practicable using administrative controls. For example, schedule concrete pumping work to minimise potential interaction with other workers. You must also provide training on safe work procedures.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used to control any remaining risks. You should assess the risks to workers and provide appropriate PPE so they can work safely.

You may need a combination of control measures to effectively minimise identified risks. 

See the Guide to managing risk in construction: Concrete pumping for further information

Common hazards

The first step in the risk management process is to identify hazards and their associated risks. The following can help you to identify hazards associated with concrete placing equipment:

  • observe the workplace to identify areas where concrete placing equipment operates. Note how the plant interacts with:
    • other vehicles
    • pedestrians, and 
    • structures, such as overhead electric lines.
  • review concrete pumping tasks, workplace design and management 
  • monitor the types of concrete placing equipment used 
  • ask operators, crew and other workers about any problems they have encountered
  • review inspection, test and maintenance records. For example, logbooks and incident and injury records, including near misses.

In concrete pumping operations, common hazards include, but are not limited to:

  • concrete placing booms
  • pump gauges
  • concrete pipelines and restraint equipment
  • uncontrolled hose whip movements 
  • concrete delivery
  • concrete pumping plant placement
  • trip hazards
  • overhead electrical powerlines
  • diesel fumes or noise
  • concrete material hazards (wet concrete).

Control measures for common hazards

Some control measures for common hazards in concrete pumping operations are listed below. You must use control measures specific to the hazards at your workplace. Potential hazards and control measures are not limited to those listed.

Hazard: Concrete placing equipment

Control measures:
select suitable plant. Implement safe systems of work to avoid hose whip incidents
ensure proper placement of concrete delivery pipelines to avoid unnecessary bends
carry out regular maintenance and inspections to prevent structural or mechanical failure
set exclusion zones to minimise access to pumping zone
ensure effective use of pipe clamps to avoid concrete pipe clamp failure.

Hazard: Manual handling

Control measures:

  • plan the work before the pour commences. This ensures equipment and workers will be available to carry out the work safely. 
  • rotate workers on repetitive and awkward tasks
  • allowing sufficient rest time
  • use mechanical equipment to lift and move bulky objects
  • provide non-slip ramps where workers are required to walk up inclines
  • allow sufficient space for workers to move and work around equipment
  • ensure workers are wearing appropriate protective equipment and non-slip footwear if required.

For more information, see the model Code of Practice: Hazardous manual tasks.

Hazard: Wet concrete 

Control measures:

  • provide facilities so workers can wash skin if they make direct contact with concrete 
  • ensure workers remove footwear/clothing immediately after working with wet concrete
  • provide appropriate PPE, such as gloves, safety goggles and waterproof footwear.

Hazard: Noise 

Control measures:

  • where possible, substitute noisy equipment for quieter equipment and work processes 
  • increase workers’ working distances from noise sources
  • use noise-reducing booths/sound absorption screens or barriers when carrying out portable work
  • where possible, avoid working in enclosed areas
  • provide hearing protection. 

Hazard: Overhead power lines

Control measures:

  • keep minimum safe working distance from electric cables 
  • where setup cannot be clear of overhead cables, consider ground level pipelines.

For more information, see the General guide for working in the vicinity of overhead and underground electric lines. 

Review control measures

Risk management is an ongoing process. You should review control measures regularly to ensure they are working as planned. Consider any changes to your workplace, including the nature and duration of work. Make sure the control measures continue to work effectively.

For more information, see the model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks. The model Code of Practice: Construction work provides guidance on construction work.

Safe work method statements 

Under the model WHS Regulations, certain classes of work are ‘high risk construction work’. Concrete pumping may be classed as high risk construction work when it is:  

  • carried out on or near energised electrical installations or services 
  • on, near or adjacent to an in-use road or railway 
  • carried out in an area where there is any movement of mobile powered plant. 

A safe work method statement (SWMS) must be in place before high risk construction work commences. All work must be carried out in accordance with the SWMS. 

A SWMS must:

  • identify the type of high risk construction work being done
  • specify the health and safety hazards and risks arising from the work
  • describe how risks will be controlled, and
  • describe how the control measures will be implemented, monitored and reviewed.

A SWMS must be accessible and understandable to anyone who needs to use it. You must develop your SWMS in consultation with workers (and their representatives) carrying out the high risk work. If the SWMS is already prepared before workers begin, you must consult with them when they receive it.

For more information, see:

Training and licensing

You must provide your workers with any information or training needed to protect them from risks involved with their work.
You must ensure that information, training or instruction provided is suitable and adequate for:

  • the nature of the work carried out by the worker
  • the nature of the risks associated with the work at the time, and 
  • the control measures implemented.

There are additional requirements for workers who operate concrete placing booms. Under section 4.5 of the model WHS Regulations, a person who is operating a concrete placing boom must hold a high risk work (HRW) licence. Schedule 3 of the model WHS Regulations identifies the classes of work that require a HRW licence. You must not direct or allow a worker to carry out HRW unless you have seen written evidence of the worker’s HRW licence. 

For more information, see the Licences webpage.

Further resources 

SafeWork NSW: Concrete placing equipment operations fact sheet
WorkSafe WA: Concrete pumping operations in the construction industry - a risk management approach
Workplace Health and Safety QLD: Concrete pumping Code of Practice 2019
WorkSafe Victoria: Industry standard: Concrete pumping  & Construction Safety Focus - Mobile Concrete Boom Pump Safety
NT WorkSafe: Hose whip on concrete pumps
Australian Standards: AS 2550.15:2019 Cranes, hoists and winches – Safe use – Concrete placing equipment
 

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