March 2009: Playing It Safe


March 2009

Playing It Safe

 Information about the Masonry Industry
© 2009 JupiterImages Corporation

Safety and the Masonry Supervisor

For a person to accomplish any task of great significance, he must have the wherewithal to complete the task. Building the pyramids, conquering the known world on foot, freeing all the slaves in an entire nation, harnessing electricity, men understanding women, women putting up with men, or keeping your employees injury free on a construction site can only be accomplished when a great leader is given the opportunity to lead effectively. If we incorporate the following components into our masonry supervisors, it will build a foundation that can give them the opportunity to lead our industry into a safer future.

Clear policies
For a supervisor to be able to control safety he must know safety. Some believe that all you need to perform safely is common sense. This is true to some degree, except that “sense” is, at times, uncommon. One person feels perfectly safe working without handrails while 20 feet off the ground, but OSHA says 10 feet off the ground is safe, and your company has a six-foot fall protection rule. All three are confident that their opinion of what is safe is right. The point is that we cannot just leave safety performance up to the use of common sense. We must have clear policies, so there is no doubt as to what is expected.

This is best accomplished with a written safety program, SOP (Safe Operating Procedure Manual) or Safety Policy and Procedure Manual. Call it what you want, but it needs to cover, in some detail, all the foreseeable hazards that an employee could encounter on the jobsite. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of written safety programs out there that can be purchased, but bear in mind that it must be applicable to your business and the masonry industry. A good way to double check whether the program is “for real” is to do a hazard analysis on your jobsites. The hazards found must be addressed in the written program. I’m a believer in a brief, real life, no filler type program. This is easier to follow, and people will actually read it. If it’s not relevant, they won’t read it.

Next, a masonry supervisor needs training in safety. Every employee should have a new-hire orientation when he comes to the company. Then, if he is going to be doing any special duties that would require special training, he needs that as well. Examples might be scaffold erection or dismantling – the duties of a scaffold competent person, a forklift operator, or a supervisor. This special position needs special training, particularly safety training.

The supervisor should be the most educated employee on the crew regarding safety. At a minimum, he should have training as a competent person, forklift operator (so he knows what his operator should and should not be doing), and finally, training on the Written Safety Program – that’s the big one. Included should be scaffold safety, heavy equipment, drug-free workplace, hazard communication (chemical hazards), fall protection, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), and more. There are other issues of training that should be addressed, such as CPR First Aid training. Anyone one on the crew could have this certification, but it makes good sense to have the supervisor equipped in this as the leader of the crew.

Another form of training that I believe to be important is in the area of people skills. A person in the role of masonry supervisor should know how to communicate and act with professionalism and respect toward other people. Being “the boss” doesn’t give a person the right to be belligerent, and with training he will understand that he can get much more from an employee who feels respected.

Not all of these trainings mentioned have to be done in a classroom setting. On-the-job training, safety meetings, on-site workshops, on-site videos and online training are ways to accomplish the desired result. As an employer, you can do the training, or you can out source the training by using a third-party training company.

Proper equipment
You’ve heard that you need the right tool for the right job, and every supervisor needs the right tools for the job as well. Every job is different, so a thorough search of the plans and site to make a proper equipment list is necessary. This impacts safety in a huge way. There must be enough scaffolding to do the job, or the supervisor will end up robbing Peter to pay Paul. It shouldn’t be this way, but this scenario is ripe for not erecting the scaffolding completely and safely. The job would need the right sized forklift to do the job safely. Conexes, job boxes, trailers – something to keep the equipment out of the weather – are also important. Power tools and hand tools must be in safe working order, or an injury is inevitable. Guards need to be in place with handles not broken. Cords and plugs need to be without cuts, splits or bear wire showing.

Don’t forget about PPE equipment, either: safety glasses, face shields, ear plugs or muffs, hard hats, gloves, and the list could go on, depending on what tasks will be performed.

Support from the top
For safety to work, there must be support for safety from the owner(s), CEOs, president, VP(s), and other key staff member. If they’re not on board for safety, problems will occur. Some upper administrations are only focused on money and will overlook, at times, things that will help in being profitable, like working without injuries. With support for safety from the top comes an empowered workforce. Crewmembers won’t have to sneak around to try to be safe, because they’re scared they will get caught taking the time to perform safely.

The masonry supervisor needs the right attitude toward safety. If he thinks safety is a burden and he’d be better off to not have all this safety stuff on his back, then he will be a failure at safety. His crew will learn and adopt his attitude. It can be a lengthy process, but you can convince your employees that you truly care.

Return to Table of Contents

Related Posts

  • 47
    Scaffolding By K.K. Snyder For nearly a quarter of a century, Scaffold Training Institute programs have educated more than 250,000 workers around the world. The institutes programs keep them safer and working smarter, armed with the knowledge of proper scaffold erection and usage. Founder John Palmer, himself a certified safety professional, still spends time in…
    Tags: training, safety, masonry
  • 45
    September 2014 Safety Staying Safe on the Jobsite By K.K. Snyder It’s no secret that masonry construction is physically demanding and has a high risk of work-related injuries. According to the latest report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, masonry construction is recognized as one of the high-risk specialty trades, with the nonfatal incident rate…
    Tags: safety, training, masonry
  • 41
    May 2009 Scaffolding State of the Scaffolding Industry Photo courtesy of EZ Scaffold By Jennifer Morrell 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…
    Tags: safety, training, masonry
  • 41
    June 2011 Safety Changing Employee Attitudes Toward Safety We can apply lessons from Sir Winston Churchill to our business operations today. By Zach Everett Photos courtesy of Brad Bailey, BRAZOS Masonry Beginning in September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded and easily took Poland, France and Norway, and conquered or subdued much of continental Europe. There were…
    Tags: safety, will
  • 41
    January 2013 Building Information Modeling Masonry and BIM: The Next Level Building information modeling, or BIM, has been in the construction industry’s vernacular for several years. Understanding what BIM really will mean to the future of our industry is paramount. If BIM is to be the go-to building concept, then masonry needs to be in…
    Tags: will, masonry


Zachary Zuldema 1st Place (2nd Year) Winner Interview at the World of Concrete

Zachary Zuldema 1st Place (2nd Year) Winner Interview at the World of Concrete

Bill Dentinger 2015 Inductee MCAA Hall of Fame

Bill Dentinger 2015 Inductee MCAA Hall of Fame

John Smith, Jr.

John Smith, Jr. receives the 2015 MCAA C. DeWitt Brown Leadman Award

2015 MCAA Fastest Trowel On The Block Winner

2015 MCAA Fastest Trowel On The Block Winner

Daniel Furr 1st Place Winner

Daniel Furr 1st Place Winner (First Year), Masonry Skills Challenge

Synpro Products

Masonry Magazine Video News Interview: Michael Goyne

Hydro Mobile Inc

Interview with Kevin O'Shea of Hydro Mobile, Inc.

Interview with Mark Kemp – Chairman, MCAA

Interview with Masonry Contractors Association of America Chairman, Mark Kemp

Mortar Net Solutions

Interview with Steve Fechino from Mortar Net Solutions

Pullman Ermator

Interview with Lyndon Kelsey of Pullman Ermator

Keene Building Products

Interview with Jim O'Neill of Keene Building Products