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Masonry Partnership Promotes Ergonomic Solutions

Masonry craft workers use a variety of tools, including trowels, power saws, blocks or pulleys, hammers and mortar mixers. They perform their work at ground level and from heights using various types of scaffolding and elevator platforms to gain access.  The weight of the materials handled, the way workers use their hands to install, position, move and manipulate materials and equipment, and their working conditions, which frequently involve working outdoors in extreme weather conditions combine to make this work physically demanding.

The Partners identified the following priorities.

Reducing Back & Shoulder Injuries

Since the masonry trade has consistently exhibited one of the highest rates for back injuries in all construction, the Partnership decided to promote adjustable Mast Scaffolds to reduce injuries associated with working in a stooped posture and lifting and placing materials above shoulder height.  As a first step, the Partnership developed a Mast Climber web-based resource to help contractors understand the benefit of this type of scaffold, when used safely and in accordance with manufacturer specifications. In addition, the Partnership is supporting the NIOSH research project: “Fall Injury Assessment for Emerging Mast Scaffold Technology.” 

Proper Hand Tool Design to Reduce Injuries

To reduce hand, wrist and arm injuries among masonry craft workers, the Partnership is working with CPWR researchers to develop criteria and an online resource to help workers determine if an “ergonomically designed” will be safer and work as well a traditional design.  The hand tool selection criteria will take into consideration a worker’s physical traits (hand size, arm length, etc.) and craft, and be used as the basis for a new web-based resource that will include easy to use step-by-step instructions on how to:

  • Use the new criteria to select new hand tools or modify existing ones to reduce the risk of injury; and
  • Find commercially available ergonomic hand tools and the materials needed to modify existing tools.  

As part of this process, the Partnership is soliciting instructor and worker input on the development of the criteria and web-based e-tool and materials through meetings, focus groups, and surveys.  These outreach activities are being used to gather stakeholder advice on how best to incorporate the criteria into training programs, transition training center inventories to safer alternatives, and encourage the use of the criteria and e-tool by apprentices and journey-level workers. 

Use of gloves to prevent dermatitis: Dermatitis Prevention Program

The Partnership is working with CPWR researchers to develop a dermatitis prevention program to help workers and contractors select gloves, overcome barriers to their use, and implement a hand protection program.  The project is focusing on the developing materials that contractors and workers can easily reference by task and trade to find the ‘best’ gloves to use.  The project will also provide information on how to determine when a glove is no longer providing adequate protection, skin care considerations – the medical perspective, and recommendations for training workers on the use of gloves and how best to incorporate such training into existing programs. At the same time, as a ‘practice to research’ project (p2r), the Partnership will seek to establish a working relationship with one or more glove manufacturers to address barriers to glove use and begin to investigate possible alternatives or design changes