Guest Blog: Can Masons Be Too Safe?

Masonry contractor safety

Can Masons Be Too Safe?

No, but being safe and meeting OSHA requirements are not always the same thing.

Guest blog by Bill Palmer


Mason Safety Contractors are responsible for providing their workers with a safe job site and with the equipment and training to keep themselves and others safe. The vast majority of contractors today gladly accept that responsibility and take it very seriously, but as Paul Albenelli said at last week’s meeting of the ASCC Safety & Risk Management Council (SRMC), “it’s a process.” If a contractor has a safety culture and is committed to doing his best, mistakes can still happen. So you work to continuously improve, like lean construction for safety.

But can you be too safe? That’s not actually a fair question. Being safe and meeting OSHA requirements are not always the same thing. This also applies to masons. The objective should be to see the big picture and create the safest possible working environment. Sometimes OSHA-dictated safety rules can be unfeasible or have unintended consequences, actually creating other hazards. One contractor told me that when safety lifelines were first mandated. Workers had only belts and if they fell, hanging by the belt would quickly cut off their air supply. Of course no one today would tie off without a full harness; the technology improved to match the need.

Unintended consequences may also be following the new silica dust rules. Perhaps the biggest complaint at the SRMC about the now-delayed silica dust rule is the feasibility of meeting the new 50 micrograms per cubic meter permissible exposure limit. Contractors want to protect their workers from silica dust and related health problems and if that’s the level it really takes, then OK, but is that level realistic or is it just an arbitrary number? Is it technologically and economically feasible on a construction site to meet that limit? That case hasn’t been clearly made. On some construction sites in the desert southwest, the limit may be exceeded just from dust blowing into the site. And what do you do to control dust in freezing conditions or inside occupied buildings where water can’t be used? In some cases, the tool and the vacuum draw more power than the tool alone and may be enough to trip the breaker on the generator, requiring extra cords that contribute a new hazard.

The Construction Industry Safety Coalition, of which ASCC is a member, is encouraging the new administration to delay enforcement of the rule until OSHA and the industry can complete more research to determine if the new exposure limit can be met and how. We all want to be safe and protect workers but we want to do so in ways that are realistic and effective.

Bill Palmer’s guest blog is published courtesy of Masonry Construction.

About the Author

Bill Palmer

Bill Palmer is editorial director of Hanley Wood’s Commercial Construction Group, which includes digital and print versions of Concrete Construction, Concrete Surfaces, The Concrete Producer, Public Works, and Masonry Construction. Previously, he worked for the American Concrete Institute for 10 years as engineering editor and director of educational programs and was the executive director of the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) and of The Masonry Society. He has been the editor in chief of Concrete Construction for 16 years. Bill is a Fellow of the American Concrete Institute and is a licensed professional engineer in Michigan and Colorado. He lives in Lyons, Colorado and can be reached at Follow Bill on twitter @WmPalmer.

Why Natural Stone Is A Sustainable Design Choice

Sandstone Slabs

Sustainable design starts with stone

Georgetown Cave Stone Chopped

Designing structures that are beautiful and sustainable is a movement that is growing. Many new materials and design options are available for your project but natural stone is a great way to add sustainable beauty and unique character to your home or commercial build.

Sustainable Design is a focus on getting more out of our natural resources. It’s a focus on limiting a building’s impact on our environment.

Design and construction of low impact and environmentally friendly buildings requires planning at the beginning of your design process but the returns from building green are worth the extra effort.

Here are 5 good reasons why stone is a sustainable design choice for your home or commercial project.

Limestone Wall Cladding

Stone is Natural

Stone is a product of the earth and mother nature’s original green building material. Natural stone requires no materials or resources to create and is in abundant supply. Stone is extremely versatile because of it’s many different textures, colors and physical characteristics. These colors, textures and characteristics make every stone installation unique.  Natural stone has no toxins or chemicals, ensuring that one element of your home environment will be safe and healthy. New commercial building construction that uses natural stone regional to a project or uses salvaged or reclaimed stone are the most common ways stone contributes to LEED points under the Materials & Resources section.

Custom Limestone columns and cladding

Stone is Recyclable

Stone is 100% recyclable and can be used many ways after it’s harvest from a quarry bed. Using recycled stone can save the water, energy and other resources used to generate new building products from raw material sources. Just a few uses for recycled stone include: fill, concrete mixture, landscaping, statuary, retaining walls, fertilizer, walkways and reuse on new construction. ASTM testing should be performed on recycled stone prior to its use in structural applications. The Natural Stone Council published a wonderful case study on ways natural stone can be reused in construction designs and in industry.

Recycled limestone

Stone is Durable

Stone is a very durable material that will stand up to years of use in a patio or age beautifully as an exterior covering. When you chose stone, you guarantee less material replacement and repairs over time. Stone tile flooring will withstand the high traffic of patios, kitchens and bathrooms for decades.

Stone may cost more than some material options, but it will outlast other products and reduce ownership costs when compared to materials that must be replaced and repaired over time. Interior and exterior Limestone applications are considered to be lifetime products that can last the entire useful life of a building according to a study by the National Association of Homebuilders.

Custom Limestone columns

Stone is Easy to Maintain

Stone will last for years with proper maintenance and care. While some natural patina coloring can develop on exterior building stone, this is easy to remove with simple water and brush cleaning if desired.  While you may elect to seal your interior stone, many exterior applications do not require sealants.

Our Stone is Quarried and Manufactured Responsibly

The quarry business has changed with advancements in technology. Innovations in extraction and fabrication methods have led to increased efficiency and lower costs for stone products. There are many more stone products being produced in quarries at an affordable price point. Stone is a more viable option for your home than ever. From water treatment and recycling programs to more energy efficient automated fabrication processes, the stone industry gets greener every year. The Natural Stone Institute curates a massive library of informational articles on the benefits of using natural stone and the relatively low environmental impacts of stone quarrying compared to other building materials like timber.


Please check out our Espinoza Stone website for more information about the myriad of stone products we produce at our 5,000 acres of Texas quarry operations.