Making the Most of Your Scaffolding
Springtime is in the air, and traditionally, this is the time of year when the pace of construction begins to pick up. Now is the time to take stock and to make sure that you and your employees have all the tools and equipment necessary to finish projects already underway, as well as to take on new contracts. Arguably, a mason contractor's most requisite tools are his or her scaffolding systems. Are you making the most of your scaffolding? Are you getting your money's worth out of this equipment?
Even if you are certain that you can answer "yes" to both questions, you are urged to continue reading because, as this article will explain, there are many scaffolding accessories on the market that can help you to work through inclement weather to work better and more efficiently, to increase safety for personnel and much more. You'll see that it doesn't take much to do a lot of good for your business.
One leader in this field is Strong Man Building Products Corp. of Fairfield, N.J. The company's Strong Wrap cold weather enclosure is constructed from high-quality, fire-retardant polyethylene, and employed to provide a controlled climate for personnel working outside on jobs. Because of its fire-retardant construction, Strong Wrap can be used to cover jobs where artificial heat and lighting are utilized. Therefore, not only does it prevent cold air from entering a job site, but it also stops the artificial heat from leaving. According to Strong Man, this reduces the amount of heat needed, and consequently saves contractors money. Also, Strong Wrap was designed specifically for easy installation to any scaffold system, preventing lost productivity and ensuring that manpower is not wasted during installation.
This enclosure and another system offered by Strong Man — the Super FR woven poly tarp — feature a high tensile strength, which is vital in cold weather and windy conditions. "We don't consider a construction site to be the place where someone should be relying on the 'value brand,' and neither should a contractor," said Jay Kinder, Strong Man president. Strong Wrap flame-retardant tarps sell for approximately $350 per roll, at 8'6" x 100', depending on quantity. Additionally, they are intended as single-use products, which should then be disposed of when a job is completed.
Other major manufacturers that offer weather enclosures and other systems for working on scaffolding during colder weather are Non-Stop Scaffolding, Shreveport, La.; and Hydro Mobile, L'Assomption, Quebec, Canada.
This is part of the idea behind Lisbon Hoist, Inc.'s new yellow, fold-up work basket. The Lisbon, Ohio-based company's new basket made its debut at the World of Concrete in January. A representative said the unit will fold up for storage easily and quickly. Further, it is light enough for one worker to transport to and from storage. The basket is available with universal mounts to fit any scaffold hoist.
Certainly, baskets can help move crews and materials in an efficient fashion. But there also are scaffolding accessories that can improve worker efficiency once personnel are in place. For Michael J. Bredl, sales manager for Universal Manufacturing Corp., maker of Universal Scaffolding in Zelienople, Pa., a mason contractor's money cannot be better spent than when purchasing side brackets for his or her scaffolding.
"The side brackets are more or less extensions of the scaffold frame, which gets the mason closer to the wall so that he can stand on this side bracket and move the side bracket up and down the outside of the scaffolding frame and continue to move as his wall is moving up." Therefore, he said, "A side bracket is probably the most advantageous part that a mason contractor uses."
Bredl added that most scaffold manufacturers offer a similar type of bracket to go with their scaffolding. "What we as manufacturers try to do is come up with products that try to make the mason contractor more efficient and his work a little easier," he said. "We all try to come up with products such as the side bracket and different configurations of scaffold frames, which keep the masons from continually bending over. There are products that keep his work handy — meaning his bricks and his mortar — and also puts them [in a position] so that they can reach the wall without reaching up too high or bending down too low."
One consideration is to make sure your scaffolding is secure. A new accessory from Web Devices of Houston, a manufacturer of fall arrest systems, is the Scaffold Davit, which the company has released as a secure anchor point for scaffolding. It is designed to attach to a scaffold corner post, and it features self-retracting lifelines for personal safety.
To prevent damage or other concerns from debris, think about investing in newer debris netting technologies. "Our high-quality polyethylene debris netting prevents the dust and particles caused by sandblasting and brickwork from becoming a safety hazard in and around the job site, thus protecting employees onsite and pedestrians passing by," said Strong Man's Kinder. Along with being used as a sandblast curtain, the company's debris netting features an open weave that allows for fresh air to circulate throughout the site.
Other, more traditional scaffold accessories designed for safety include guard rails and braces, properly fitted base plates and fastening pins, etc. Normally, your preferred scaffolding manufacturer can provide this equipment. Additionally, there are a number of manufacturers that produce such accessories for many brands of scaffolding. One such company is Granite Industries of Archbold, Ohio. Chad Kern, assistant sales manager, said that about 80 percent of his company's products are pre-manufactured and ready to go, especially this time of year. "We'll match up to any [scaffolding] companies. We have a lot of flexibility that way. Anybody that calls, we can take care of them," he said.
To protect yourself and your business, Kern advised that mason contractors should make sure the products are backed by a good warranty, and ensure that the company has an umbrella-type insurance policy to cover any falls or anything else that might result from a manufacturer defect.
"That's built into the price of a product," he said. "If you're out there finding a product that is extremely cheap or half the price of everybody else, it is usually because it is a lower-gauge steel, etc. Do a little background check on it. Talk to your friends and the people you deal with, and see what they think works well."
John Chen, chief information officer for Sunshine International Corp. of Memphis, Tenn., owner of STEPUP Scaffold, has some additional guidance. "Look at the welding," he said. "That will determine a lot of the stability and durability of the frames. And make sure the vendor performs some type of loading test on the frames. Not all the frames are made equal, even though they may look the same. A different grade of steel can make a lot of difference in the load capacity.
"If they [masons] stand on it, they need to be careful about what they use," said Chen, whose company manufactures scaffolding accessories that are compatible with the major scaffolding brands in the United States.
Once you've taken these steps and you have decided upon the companies you feel you can trust, but you are unsure exactly what new accessories you need, many manufacturers will happily guide you through this process. Some accessory providers can help you to design the proper scaffolding systems, such as Universal.
"Through our distributors, the contractors will call us and ask us to help them design their scaffolding the most efficient way, and to give them a set-up drawing on how the scaffolding would work best on their job site," said Bredl. "So our drafting department and our engineering department work hand-in-hand with contractors and their distributors to make sure that they're setting up their scaffolding the most efficient way on the job site."
Other manufacturers provide onsite assistance with determining your accessory needs. For example, Strong Man representatives make job site visits with their distributors to help contractors get to know the various types of debris netting and their job-specific benefits. "For instance, weather conditions, type of application, building height and location all factor in to determining the proper debris netting," Kinder said. "We educate our distributors to ensure that they recommend the most effective and efficient netting for their customers' specific applications."
About the Author
Cory Sekine-Pettite is an editor for Lionheart Publishing and was the founding editor of Masonry Design magazine.
Images courtesy of Universal Scaffold.