I am currently working on my eagle scout project, and I will be using mortar to put together part of my project (I know this doesn't completely apply to home improvement so if this is the wrong place I'm sorry!). I want to make sure that nobody gets hurt, so I bought work gloves for everybody. They also had gloves meant specifically for working with mortar. Is using normal work gloves fine for mixing mortar, and using it to build a fire pit, or should we use gloves meant for masonry specifically?

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    I usually don't where gloves when working with mortar because it tends to stick to gloves and just a big pain. When I do it is usually latex dr's gloves (just to keep it out of the fingernail area).
    – DMoore
    Dec 5 '14 at 17:09
  • Yep, I bought normal work gloves, but I don't know if these aren't sufficient. I realize that some people do it without gloves but since these are going to be kids < 18 I don't want parents to be angry at me!
    – Sammy
    Dec 5 '14 at 17:14
  • Isn't getting dirty and looking like you did something 80% of the fun?
    – DMoore
    Dec 5 '14 at 17:18
  • That's true :) I do have masks and goggles so that is covered. If slightly irritated skin is all I have to worry about, then that is fine, but if something much worse is possible, then I would just like to hear what other people think. (I'm very sorry if I look like I don't know anything!)
    – Sammy
    Dec 5 '14 at 17:20
  • Also when working with mortar you want to hose your hands off once every hour at least. This prevents stuff from drying and your hands from rotting. I tile and do mortar work 10-15 times a year and never wear gloves but do wear gloves for most other tasks.
    – DMoore
    Dec 5 '14 at 17:22

Considering how little exposure you will get to the mortar for your small project, you're probably fine with just your work gloves. Wearing latex gloves under your work gloves will provide additional protection. I would suggest that for the people who will be working directly with the mortar.

Big picture, more important than gloves is breathing protection. Inhaling dry mortar powder can be very dangerous, even in small quantities. Different people have different reactions: while one person could spend years breathing the stuff and never have any problems, another could experience severe respiratory distress on their first exposure. Whoever is opening bags and mixing should be wearing a respirator. The disposable kind is fine, if rated for mortar exposure.

  • That's a good point. I would actually say no gloves and masks on until it is mixed.
    – DMoore
    Dec 5 '14 at 17:20
  • Thank you! I have respirators (disposable kind) and goggles for everyone.
    – Sammy
    Dec 5 '14 at 17:22

Since you're working with other minors, at a very minimum, you should follow OSHA guidelines:

Skin Irritation:

  • Wet portland cement can cause caustic burns, sometimes referred to as cement burns. Cement burns may result in blisters, dead or hardened skin, or black or green skin. In severe cases, these burns may extend to the bone and cause disfiguring scars or disability.
  • Employees cannot rely on pain or discomfort to alert them to cement burns because cement burns may not cause immediate pain or discomfort. By the time an employee becomes aware of a cement burn, much damage has already been done. Cement burns can get worse even after skin contact with cement has ended. Any employee experiencing a cement burn is advised to see a health care professional immediately.
  • Skin contact with wet portland cement can also cause inflammation of the skin, referred to as dermatitis. Signs and symptoms of dermatitis can include itching, redness, swelling, blisters, scaling, and other changes in the normal condition of the skin.

Preventing cement-related skin problems

The best way to prevent cement-related skin problems is to minimize skin contact with wet portland cement. Compliance with OSHA's requirements for provision of PPE, washing facilities, hazard communication and safety training, along with the good skin hygiene and work practices listed below, will protect against hazardous contact with wet cement.

Good Practices for Glove Selection and Use

  • Provide the proper gloves for employees who may come into contact with wet portland cement. Consult the glove supplier or the cement manufacturer's MSDS for help in choosing the proper gloves. Butyl or nitrile gloves (rather than cotton or leather gloves) are frequently recommended for caustic materials such as portland cement.

  • Use only well-fitting gloves. Loose-fitting gloves let cement in. Often the use of gloves and clothing makes exposure worse when cement gets inside or soaks through the garment. Use glove liners for added comfort.

  • Wash your hands before putting on gloves. Wash your hands every time that you remove your gloves.

  • Dry your hands with a clean cloth or paper towel before putting on gloves.

  • Protect your arms and hands by wearing a long sleeve shirt with the sleeves duct-taped to your gloves to prevent wet cement from getting inside the gloves.

  • Follow proper procedures for removing gloves, whether reusing or disposing them. See Table 1 for proper procedures for removing gloves.

  • Clean reusable gloves after use. Before removing gloves, clean the outside by rinsing or wiping off any wet cement. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for glove cleaning. Place clean and dry gloves in a plastic storage bag and store them in a cool, dry place away from tools.

  • Throw out grossly contaminated or worn-out gloves.

  • Keep the inside of gloves clean and dry.

  • Do not use barrier creams or "invisible gloves." These products are not effective in protecting the skin from portland cement hazards.

Good Practices for Skin Care

  • Wash areas of the skin that come into contact with wet cement in clean, cool water. Use a pH-neutral or slightly acidic soap. Check with the soap supplier or manufacturer for information on the acidity and alkalinity of the soap2.

  • Consider using a mildly acidic solution such as diluted vinegar or a buffering solution to neutralize caustic residues of cement on the skin3.

  • Do not wash with abrasives or waterless hand cleaners, such as alcohol-based gels or citrus cleaners.

  • Avoid wearing watches and rings at work since wet cement can collect under such items.

  • Do not use lanolin, petroleum jelly, or other skin softening products. These substances can seal cement residue to the skin, increase the skin's ability to absorb contaminants, and irritate the skin. Skin softening products also should not be used to treat cement burns.

Good Practices for Use of Boots and Other Protective Clothing and Equipment

  • Wear waterproof boots when necessary to prevent wet cement from coming into contact with your skin. It is as important to protect your legs, ankles, and feet from skin contact with wet cement as it is to protect your hands.

  • Boots need to be high enough to prevent wet cement from getting inside. Tuck pants inside and wrap duct tape around the top of the boots to prevent wet cement from entering.

  • Select boots that are sturdy, strong enough to resist punctures and tears, and slip resistant.

  • Change protective boots if they become ineffective or contaminated on the inside with wet cement while in use.

  • Change out of any work clothes that become contaminated with wet cement and keep contaminated work clothes separate from your street clothes.

  • When kneeling on wet cement use waterproof kneepads or dry kneeboards to prevent the knees from coming into contact with the cement.

  • Wear proper eye protection when working with portland cement.

There is much more information and links to other sources on their web page

  • I'll add that as a child I worked on many home improvement projects with my parents including work with cement and never knew that cement was a hazard, never used any special PPE, and never had any problems. And I'm sure that many people have had the same experience. However, you never know when someone may have a particular sensitivity to cement. As the leader, you should take every reasonable precaution to protect them. While protecting everyone from injury is the paramount concern, you're also protecting yourself and your scouting organization from any potential liability for injury.
    – Johnny
    Dec 5 '14 at 19:06

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