Scaffolding plays a huge role in the masonry industry. To learn how scaffolding companies are continuing to survive and thrive in such a challenging economy, Masonry went directly to the sources. Executives from three solid scaffolding companies answered a few questions to offer insight to their current business practices and philosophies.
Masonry: How is the economy currently affecting your company?
Clint Bridges, Vice President, EZ Scaffold: The business is still there. Contractors are still bidding. However, the prices are tighter than ever. So, as a supplier, we have to work harder to get in front of the decision makers, so they can see the advantages of using our product. Specifically, we need to show how our products make them more competitive during these tough times. Also, we need to be able to meet their needs in more ways than ever. Whether it is new, used or a lease-purchase along with a variety of products, we’d better have what they need, the way they need it.
Charles Dewey, VP of Scaffold and Erection Services, Waco Scaffolding and Equipment: The current economy has had a significant impact on Waco. We have had to economize in all areas, including overall staffing levels. The level of business over 2008 has dropped off dramatically. However, the level of bidding activity has picked up during the last several weeks, which is encouraging. Perhaps the stimulus plans are beginning to work.
Noe Vallejo, Safety Director, Action Scaffold Manufacturing Co.: The economy is adversely affecting the entire construction industry, and we do feel it as well. We did see a decline in our business and in scaffolding as a whole in the entire valley. We expect the economy to pick up, the sooner, the better.
Masonry: How large a factor is the issue of safety for your company/products?
Clint Bridges, EZ Scaffold: Safety is a huge part of what we do. It is as important to our customers as increases in production and labor savings. The construction environment is getting to the point where they have to spend a lot of their resources (time and money) focusing on safety. If it is not done properly, it can result in down time, fines and lost profits. Not to mention, it takes time and focus away from other tasks. Anything we can do to make this easier is a great help to the contractor. We constantly monitor regulatory commissions and legislation. We are active members of the Scaffold Industry Association (SIA), which helps establish most of the regulations that are adopted by ANSI and OSHA.
Charles Dewey, Waco Scaffolding: The issue of safety is of paramount importance to Waco Scaffolding and Equipment Co. We are engaged in the sales, rental and erection of scaffolding access systems for the commercial and industrial/shipyard markets. We have a full-time Safety/Risk Management Department headed by Floyd Konet. He has infused a culture of safety throughout our business. We employ several in-house safety inspectors whose sole job is to inspect projects for safety compliance for our branch operations as well as customer sites. Floyd believes in a “hands on” proactive approach to safety. We have a great reputation in providing quality products and services to the masonry industry, and Floyd and his team make sure that we live up to that reputation every day.
We work closely with our customers and OSHA in all of our markets, which helps us keep up on the issues that OSHA is focusing on. In recent times, OSHA has focused heavily on fall protection issues, and we assist our customers in complying with the regulations that deal with this. We offer training, so that the customers and users of our scaffold systems understand these requirements and how to comply with them. Also, we are members of the SIA, which keeps the membership up to date on the latest developments with OSHA. The SIA has developed industry-leading training programs that we offer to our customers as an approved SIA Training Institute.
Safety plays a large role in our marketing efforts. We continue to offer domestically manufactured products. However, in this “global economy,” if a company does not offer an offshore product, it is virtually impossible to remain competitive. Waco performs quality assurance checks to insure that the proper steel tubing is used and that the offshore products meet our high-quality standards before introducing them into the marketplace. The quality of offshore products covers a broad range, from high-quality, well made products to low-quality, poorly made products. It is strictly a “buyer beware” situation. After the fact, everyone would agree that the lowest price isn’t always the best deal.
Noe Vallejo, Action Scaffold: Safety is a very important part of what we do. We are a scaffold company, so our work demands that we have a safe working environment. Our scaffold erectors go through scaffold hazard awareness training, OSHA 10-hour training, and competent scaffold training. We have weekly toolbox meetings and monthly safety meetings. Our scaffold erectors are constantly trained in scaffold and construction industry hazards.
I am also a certified SIA trainer. I constantly train, and I regularly visit the OSHA Web site for any new changes. I also attend many training and education sessions that are provided by ADOSH and our worker’s compensation carrier. The SIA is a great place for new and updated rules information concerning scaffold. We do offer and market our scaffold competent training courses to outside companies that are looking to get accredited scaffold training.
Masonry: When buying materials to build your products, what are your considerations?
Clint Bridges, EZ Scaffold: Our primary consideration is the quality of the material. These days, there is a variety of materials from many sources. It is very important that what we get meets our high specifications. After that, we are tightening up as much as possible to provide the customer the highest value at the lowest price.
Charles Dewey, Waco Scaffolding: When buying materials, we focus on compliance with our standards and specifications for the materials and products. As stated earlier, we work hard to maintain our reputation as a leading supplier of quality products. We have had to bring in offshore products to remain competitive, and we work just as hard to ensure that our quality standards are maintained.
Noe Vallejo, Action Scaffold: We look for local and reputable companies. Safety plays a key factor in selecting a vendor. Anything we purchase must comply with standards applicable to that product.
Masonry: What is the most important message you’d like to convey to mason contractors?
Clint Bridges, EZ Scaffold: Don’t lose money by trying to save money. All of the bad news that we hear everyday can scare people into making do and not using the most productive and labor-saving equipment available. Some of this could cause extreme losses in profit trying to save money. You want to be cautious, but you still need to look for the best way to do the job.
Charles Dewey, Waco Scaffolding: Waco Scaffolding and Equipment Co. built our reputation providing quality products and services to the masonry industry. We truly partner with our customers, offering engineering services, safety and training services, erection services, in addition to selling and renting masonry scaffold systems. Our customers really get to see our strengths when challenging situations arise. We see things through to a successful conclusion. We’ve been around for over 50 years, and we plan to be around for 50 more. We are not the cheapest supplier out there. Therefore, we appreciate that our customers recognize that we are worth it.
Noe Vallejo, Action Scaffold: Scaffold plays an important role in the life of a mason. It is important to know and understand all of the safety standards that apply to mason’s works. We provide safety and training courses to make the work environment a better and safer place.
Masonry: What do you see for the future of the scaffold industry?
Clint Bridges, EZ Scaffold: Significant changes. The United States is behind many parts of the world in mast climbing scaffold and safety. We figure only about 20 percent to 30 percent of the jobs that need mast climbing scaffold are using mast climbing scaffold. I think many masons are noticing that, in the last few years, scaffold safety is becoming more of a hot issue with the general contractors. This is going to become the norm, even for the small jobs. It will be important to have the equipment that will meet the strict requirements, so that you can worry about getting brick in the wall instead of scaffold issues.
Charles Dewey, Waco Scaffolding: The scaffold business is changing. It is a mature industry. Therefore, the changes tend to occur slowly. The level of training taking place in the industry is incredible. When OSHA revised the regulations in 1997, it was mandated that employees working from scaffolds must be trained in the proper use and hazards associated with the scaffolds they are working on. They need to have an idea as to how much load the planking that they stock the brick and other materials on can safely support. They need to know how to provide safe access. They need to know how to provide acceptable fall protection and acceptable falling object protection, and how to properly tie the scaffold in to keep it from falling over. This is a big improvement in our industry.
Noe Vallejo, Action Scaffold: The scaffold industry is a dynamic industry. Training is the most important factor when thinking about the scaffold industry; it is a major part of the environment. Competent scaffold erectors are needed throughout the industry. The scaffold industry is becoming more and more specialized. We believe that, in the future, the scaffold erector will become a specialized trade. When and if that happens, training will be paramount for all who wish to become a reputable and safe scaffold company.
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