The Discriminating Plank Buyer
As a mason contractor, it’s your job to be not only an informed buyer, but also a defensive buyer. This rings true for every piece of equipment on your jobsite, including planks. Masonry sat down with John Warlikowski, western sales manager and LVL product manager for Kennison Forest Products Inc., and Dean Cook, vice president of Indian Mill Corp., to learn what to look for in a quality plank, and what could happen if you neglect to be a discriminating plank buyer.
Masonry: How has your company managed to survive in such a down economy?
John Warlikowski: By providing excellent products and service.
Dean Cook: We have continued to hold to our principals of doing business by providing, excellent product, competitive pricing and timely service. Most companies who sell scaffold plank are brokers, not a mill. Since we are a mill, we are doing more direct advertising and sales to the consumers.
Masonry: What’s the biggest concern in the industry when it comes to scaffold planking?
Warlikowski: The biggest concern is still the same thing that it has been for many years: buyer beware. Are you buying certified scaffold planks? That is why we suggest contractors ask the following questions from those who are attempting to supply them.
Cook: Our biggest concern with scaffold plank in a down economy is that users will not buy a quality product, and workers will be needlessly injured.
Masonry: What are the possible repercussions that mason contractors might incur if they use uncertified scaffold planking?
Warlikowski: The worst, of course, is the would-be death of a worker. Second, the financial loss is immeasurable.
Cook: First are accidents; second is the loss of revenue, not just the contractor but their families, OSHA fines, litigation, higher insurance costs, and, eventually, bankruptcy. Many people don’t understand the trickle-down effect one little accident has.
Masonry: Do you feel that uncertified lumber will not last as long as the certified types of scaffold planking?
Warlikowski: It will not last as long as certified planks. The requirements for Solid Sawn as well as Laminated (LVL) Scaffold Planks are far superior to standard solid sawn or LVL.
Cook: Definitely. The lumber purchased from most box stores or lumber yards is four to five grades below the grade needed for scaffold planking. Scaffold Plank gets its strength from the mandatory density and grain of the wood. The lower the grade of the wood, the less density and grain it may have; the greater the absorption of moisture and chemicals; and the faster the rate of decomposition.
Masonry: What can mason contractors do to help fight problems with uncertified planking?
Warlikowski: Use the check list that we suggest, and know your supplier. (See sidebar.)
Cook: Research your vendors. Get online and lookup trade associations such as Scaffold Industry Association (SIA), MCAA, Timber Products (TP), Southern Pine Inspection Bureau (SPIB), and West Coast Lumber Inspection Bureau (WCLB). Every true, solid sawn scaffold plank comes with five mandatory markings on its stamp: third-party agency, mill name or number, scaffold plank grade, moisture content and wood species. The consumer should be vigilant and look out for fake stamps and companies that mix in uncertified lumber with certified. Believe me, they are out there.
Masonry: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our mason contractor readers?
Warlikowski: You get what you pay for. There is a good reason why you buy the mixers and hand tools that you do. You most likely had a good experience with them in the past, and they have held up as promised, or better. Buying certified planks is like buying good tires: You want good, useable service from both.
Cook: Buying quality products the first time saves you money in the end. Look for ways of extending the life of your old plank in these tough economic times, via proper handling, storage and inspection. Coat your old and new plank with approved sealants and get longer life out of them. Remember, companies lose most of their plank while they are not being used.
About the Author
Jennifer Morrell was the editor of Masonry magazine. She has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry as a writer and editor, covering such topics as real estate and construction, insurance, health care, relationships and sports. A graduate of The University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in magazines and is an award-winning newspaper columnist.