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March 29, 2005 7:31 AM CST

Safety is Number One Concern on Baltimore Development


Baltimore Masonry Inc. is using the entire fleet of HEK mast climbing work platforms from Specialty Access Inc. to provide vertical access during construction of the latest $97 million high-rise structure in the rapidly developing Inner Harbor area of Baltimore, MD.

The large, waterfront multi-purpose complex varies in height from 18 to 20 stories on a rectangular site measuring approximately 260' x 360'. As with most inner-city developments, the time-period for completion is tight ? just 30 weeks to lay as many as 900,000 bricks.

Baltimore Masonry has been using mast climbing work platforms for almost 10 years and fully appreciates the many benefits in speed of erection, increased productivity and safety.

Tom Ford, Project Manager for Baltimore Masonry, says that the company started using mast climbers because of their productivity and safety features. "Safety is our number one concern, and these machines are not only much safer to work from, but are also much more efficient. With scaffolding, you have many problem areas ? the risk of planks being left out or guardrails not in place, so there is nothing to stop you from falling. Scaffolding can be overloaded, and it is not the user-friendliest system for bricklayers. Mast climbers offer a much safer way to work and increase productivity. They also allow the bricklayers to adjust the height to the preferred working position, so there is less bending or stretching."

On this project, the subcontractor has 19 machines surrounding the building to enable the 35 bricklayers and 30 laborers to work all facades at the same time. There are 18 HEK MSM Supers and 1 HEK MS 5000. The machines are in various configurations of twin and single mast. The maximum deck length is 70' and the deck width is typically five feet.

The machines are anchored at around 26-foot intervals. "We have tried to anchor through the window openings in to the concrete slab. This reduces the number of 'make goods' that we have to do when the machines are dismantled," says Ford.

Depending on the machine configuration, the platforms are loaded at ground level with up to 6,000 lbs. of brick. A telescopic handler places the palletized loads at intervals along the work platform.

"Scaffolding was never an option on this job," says Ford. "To scaffold a building such as this, in a downtown location ? which typically has little storage area so just getting materials in can be a problem ? would have required a lot of erectors and a lot of time. And time we do not have. With the HEKs, we only need two to three people during the set-up and a forklift to lift the platform on the mast. And, unlike scaffolding, you do not have to wait until the building is wrapped. As soon as a mast climber is erected, you can start using it."

When asked what the problems were on the site, Ford jokingly says, "The other trades people who want to use the work platforms to finish their work. We have no problem with the machines, and we have some brutal bricklayers. In the 10 years we have been using HEK machines, the only failure we have had is a burnt-out drive motor, which we had to have rewound."

Victor Marcantoni, Northeast Regional Construction Sales Manager for Intervect USA, which is responsible for marketing and support of HEK mast climbing work platforms in North America, estimates that the cost saving is significant. "In this type of project, you use 30 to 40% less labor because productivity is that much higher, and employees are healthier because of the ergonomic advantage."

About the Author

Masonry, the official publication of the Mason Contractors Association of America, covers every aspect of the mason contractor profession - equipment and techniques, building codes and standards, business planning, promoting your business, legal issues and more. Read or subscribe to Masonry magazine at


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