By Mark Mancini
When describing a trained and skilled workforce, LIUNA Training and Education Fund (LIUNA Training) ensures that safety, productivity and the ability to think critically are part of the narrative. In a construction job like that of a mason tender, these traits are most valuable.
Whether by learning the trade through LIUNA’s Construction Craft Laborer Department of Labor-approved apprenticeship program or from upgrade journeyworker training, mason tenders remain a multi-skilled and important part of every masonry project.
Trained and skilled means safe. Even the most skilled mason tender becomes a liability if safe work habits are not part of the job. Rushing, disregarding personal protective equipment (PPE), assembling a disorganized work area and cutting corners can all put the mason tender and his fellow workers at risk.
Trained and skilled means productive. Mason tenders are always moving, performing a variety of tasks. Multi-skilled means more production and increased value to the masonry contractor.
Trained and skilled means being a critical thinker. The best mason tenders keep the job moving forward by planning ahead. They also keep it moving by accurately estimating materials so nothing has to be hastily rearranged later.
The laborers trade remains one of the most valuable assets for a masonry contractor. Thanks to LIUNA Training, the pathway to becoming a trained and skilled mason tender has never been clearer.
For workers new to the industry, it starts with LIUNA Training’s DOL-approved apprenticeship program, where foundational knowledge on safety, tools and equipment, and job skills is obtained. Once training and on-the-job hours are gained, apprentices begin to focus on skills needed by masonry contractors.
For journeyworkers looking for a challenge, upgrade training is available at more than 70 LIUNA centers across North America. Boasting a variety of courses vital to mason tenders, such as Rough Terrain Forklift and Scaffolding Building, a LIUNA Training center has what workers and contractors need.
Whether an apprentice or journeyworker, the mason tender’s morning starts at least a half hour before anyone else’s on the jobsite. This time is used to set up the site so the masonry project can start on time and the trowels can keep moving all day. Materials need to be calculated, transported and stacked. Mortar needs to be job-ready, and distribution setups need to be in place.
Correctly estimating masonry material is essential, as all contractors have the same basic goal: to complete a project quickly and efficiently. Moving large amounts of unused or unneeded materials is a time waster. It takes up manpower and slows a job down.
A LIUNA-trained mason tender learns the proper way to estimate masonry materials. LIUNA Certified Instructors provide classroom instruction and hands-on activities that include blueprints, hand calculators, and computer programs to make quick estimates based on wall area. Trainees perform calculations in the classroom, then head outside to stack materials, taking into consideration access and workflow. Because construction math is key to any masonry job, industry math courses are a prerequisite for any hands-on training that involves estimating and calculating.
“Our contractors know that every trainee, whether journeyworker or apprentice, is getting job skills and knowledge that make the worksite efficient and productive,” says John J. LeConche, LIUNA Training executive director.
A LIUNA-trained mason tender knows mortar types, mixing procedures, and how to maintain the right mortar consistency. Laborer trainees receive instruction on the basics first. It starts with safety and setup — from reducing dust, safe lifting and proper PPE to an organized mixing area that is close to water and materials and has easy accessibility. Laborers understand the need to mix to industry and jobsite standards while also dealing with the individual preferences of each mason. In the end, mortar mixing is about consistency that keeps the job running at a steady pace. Mortar that is too stiff or too “soupy” slows the mason down and wastes the mason tender’s time. Mortar mixing is a skill learned in the classroom, practiced during hands-on training, and put into action on the jobsite.
This same classroom and hands-on approach is a key element when training mason tenders to cut masonry materials. A LIUNA mason tender is trained to handle masonry saw cuts like step, chop and angle. Once again, safety is first, from donning the proper PPE to ensuring clothing, necklaces, bracelets or anything loose isn’t worn that can get caught in the blade.
All LIUNA training centers focus on safety, either in specific classes or integrated into hands-on courses. Adherence to industry regulations is key, as are continual updates to meet changing requirements. As an example, all LIUNA training centers have adapted the new crystalline silica rule that is designed to limit workers’ exposure to harmful dust. While some contractors have concerns that the new standards can be cost prohibitive, LIUNA provides real answers to mitigate exposure while keeping costs down.
LIUNA Training provides quality curriculum and instructor training to every affiliated LIUNA center. The result is certified instructors providing third-party accredited Rough Terrain Forklift training, one of the only training providers in the industry to do so. Mason tending trainees learn how to load a rough terrain forklift, determining the center of gravity and ensuring that the load isn’t beyond the machine’s capacity. Placing loads at elevations is practiced to avoid tipping the forklift or endangering other workers on the jobsite. Proper driving techniques are taught on ramps, slopes and uneven ground, while instructors serve as guides to ensure trainees are driving the forklift at the proper speed.
Working side by side with masons, the mason tender has to ensure that every working platform is securely in place. At every LIUNA training center, scaffold building courses give trainees the working knowledge and safety requirements they need to keep the job moving no matter how high off the ground. “Too much is at stake for us to be wrong when it comes to scaffolding. You have to feel as safe on a scaffold as you do on the ground. That is why we offer OSHA 10 and 30 Scaffold User and Builder courses in addition to our hands-on programs. We leave nothing to chance because worker safety means everything on any jobsite,” LeConche says.
Trainees learn the art of building various types of scaffold, including frame, tube and clamp, system, adjustable masonry, and more. They also are taught the maximum allowable weight for each and how to calculate it for planks of various sizes. Considering what’s on the platform — people, materials, mortar and equipment — mason tenders’ scaffold-building technique could be considered their most important skill.
The ability to estimate, plan, measure, transport, and build are all traits of a reliable mason tender who has learned the importance of safety, productivity and critical thinking at a LIUNA training facility.
Mark Mancini is the communications/staff writer for the LIUNA Training and Education Fund. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.