Job safety is as important on a 10 story commercial building as it is on a residential remodel.  Every mason deserves to go home just like he came to work.  Too many times, accidents happen that can seriously injure a mason, causing lost time, medical costs, or worse.  Many of these are reported to management and injury reports are filed and the mason is medically treated.  However, there are probably more that do get reported.  Either the contractor does not have insurance, or perhaps is just a side job putting up a mailbox or a retaining wall.  No matter the situation, accidents happen fast and no one is exempt.  But, the good news…. most are PREVENTABLE!

My brother and I are proud, and amazed, that we were able to run a small masonry business in Northwest Arkansas for 10 years without a serious accident.  I look back and shake my head in disbelief that no one didn’t get hurt when we were standing on scaffolding four stories high looking down at a 50 feet “holler” bedded with rocks.  When I think about the crew I hired, scaffold building experience was not on my list of requirements (Most of the time, just showing up got them employee of the month).

The reason I wrote to MCAA, we are a new company and we want to help bring awareness to all companies, employees and families that accidents can be prevented, but you have to recognize them.  If we can help someone go home the same way they came to work, then that’s success to us.  The reason I brought up scaffolding in the beginning, my brother J.D. just had an accident on scaffolding that we want to share.  While working on Arkansas Native Stone archway under a bridge (see photo MCAA 1, MCAA 2). 

While setting a 100 lb. stone two stories high, he stepped back and the walk board slid out from under him.  He fell through the boards and bounced off the first set and landed to the side.  The rock came straight down and hit about a foot away.   Besides being banged and bruised on his back and legs, he left half his shin on the scaffold (see photo MCAA 3)

. 

I asked my brother whose fault was it.  Of course the first one to blame was the laborer who put it up.  But, he then said that it was also his fault for not checking it out.  Being a union member during his 30+ years of masonry (he’s 57 in Dec), he knew better but was in a hurry to get a job done on time.  They took shortcuts.  He said, being in the union, he was certified to build scaffold.  He was properly trained and therefore worked for many years without ever falling through.  However, things happen and sometimes without a problem.  But, because they didn’t, the following things didn’t happen.

  • Instead of using 5 walk boards, they only had 3.  One walk board and two material boards.
  • No Toe board.  This would have locked the boards in place and prevent them from sliding.
  • No safety straps/harness:  Instead on bouncing through scaffolding like a human Plinko ball, he would have been suspended.

If he had taken the time to look at what he was going to be working on, he could have seen the missing boards, missing toe board, and would have had a chance to correct it.  He can also work with the laborers and teach them how to put up scaffolding correctly.  If this was a commercial job, this may not have happened.  But, again, many accidents happen on smaller, private jobsites.  Incredibly, JD and all seasoned, hardcore masons are tough as the blocks they lay and suck it up and get back to work.  I don’t know if too many new mason/tenders would stick around too long it they went through what he did.  That’s why it’s important that those of us who have experience and the ability to share should help.  If you see something wrong, don’t just fix it or ignore, find the person who did and show them how to do it right.  I know we all have seen some scary things happen.  No one wants to see anyone get hurt, or killed due to avoidable mistakes.  Taking shortcuts can cost you and others more than it’s worth.   Anyways, they finished the job and he is still walking around. 

I realize I didn’t add a bunch of statistics about Workman’s Comp, Medical Cost, Time lost, etc.…  I am not an industry statistician. But I think my story relates to most of you enough that fact and figures aren’t necessary.  Like most of you, I’m just a guy who happen to have a brother who was a great mason and who together decided to start a company.  We started off small, with a wheelbarrow and a rented mixer.  We slowly got more jobs and started hiring some masons and laborers.  We watched as jobs grew and the houses got bigger.  Pretty soon we had up to 15 masons and tenders climbing around scaffolding that looked like Thunderdome on Mad Max.  (Great movie!)  Fortunately, “all men entered, all men left”.  However, we were lucky.  My brother experience what it’s like to be unlucky.  And as sue as the sun will rise, his shin will heel, the number of stories he fell will slowly increase over tune as the story get taller, and he will be at work tomorrow.  Hopefully with more focus on his surroundings and those around the entire jobsite.

On behalf of my brother and me, we truly appreciate being a part of MCAA and meeting all the members both online and at the WOC.  We look forward to meeting more of you at upcoming shows.  We would love to hear your stories.  We hope this helps make tomorrow a safer day.

Words: Andrew Green

Photos: Andrew Green and Masonry Magazine