Mortar pads free up bricklayers

Dry mortar boards by maxit improve occupational health and safety on construction sites

 

Bricklayers have always been exposed to particular physical stress. Therefore they are regarded as a group at risk for certain occupational, back, respiratory, and skin diseases. Regulations such as the Construction Site Ordinance (BaustellV) or the supplementary rules on occupational health and safety at construction sites (RAB to BaustellV) are intended to provide them with sufficient protection. But certain strains still exist.

 

According to Frank Maxit (Azendorf), one of the most important results of the development of the mortar pad is to reduce these further. After irrigation, the dry mortar plate has the same  structural properties as conventional thin-bed mortar. At the same time, however, it significantly reduces the weight and health risks for bricklayers. About one year after the market launch, these expectations are  being confirmed in daily practice.

"Physical work free from mental pain", the French writer Francois VI.  Herzog de La Rochefoucauld said in the 17th century. Unlike other professions, psychological suffering does not seem to be much of an issue on Germany's construction sites. However, the increased burden on the bodies of construction workers is evident. The "2015 health report" by the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK - Technical Health Insurance Company) makes clear: In a comparison between industries, the second highest downtimes are recorded for male workers in construction occupations with 21.2 days per year. The main reasons are muscle and bone disorders, back pain, disc herniation, respiratory, and pulmonary disease. All of these sensitive areas are particularly familiar to bricklayers in their daily lives. They handle heavy weights every day, taking on straining body postures in the process and being exposed to fine dust particles.

 

In addition to the personal component, this of course also has economic significance. According to a study by the AOK diseases in the area of the back and joints alone cause about 30 billion euros in damage annually. For construction companies, this means about 130 to 180 euros costs per sick day. The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) mentions a loss of 3.8 billion euros in gross value added - for the construction sector alone. Investments in occupational health and safety and detailed regulations - such as the BaustellenV Ordinance (BaustellV) - are contributing to a steady improvement in the situation on German construction sites. But building materials manufacturers such as Franken Maxit (Azendorf) can also take on some responsibility. The company had users in mind at an early stage in the development of its mortar pads.

Less weight, lower risk of accidents

Bricklayers move about 2.6 tons of mortar on an average construction site every day. In case of conventional operation with mixing in the bucket and application with a trowel, masonry mortar is therefore one of the real "heavyweight" building materials. Since its presentation at the trade fair "BAU 2015" the mortar pad by Franken Maxit (Azendorf) has represented an alternative to this. The dry mortar plates consist of light-weight mortar, a glass fibre fabric and water-soluble hot-melt adhesive. They are delivered in packs of 10 with the bricks to the construction site. A single mortar plate weighs just 300 grams, its mixing ratio is industrially prefabricated, and it only needs to have water applied after laying. This not only provides bricklayers with security in terms of processing quality, but also significantly reduces the physical load they take on.

 

In case of traditional processing, they would have to move mortar bags weighing approx. 420 kilograms each day, 78 kilograms of moistened mortar in tubs, and about 1.4 tons of mortar on the mortar sledge.  According to calculations by Franken Maxit, only 54.9 kilograms needs to be carried when using mortar pads. A 98% reduction in weight! If this consideration is extended over an entire year with around 1,600 working hours, a weight difference of 570 tonnes of mortar results for conventional processing compared with11 tonnes when using mortar pads. It should also be kept in mind that the processing of the mortar does not only place at easily accessible locations. As soon as the ground floor is complete, ladders and scaffolding will lead to the next place of use. The bricklayer balances there, usually with a high weight and is consequently subject to an increased risk of falling. This is reflected again in the statistics of the "Health Report 2015" by TK: The construction industry is far ahead of other sectors in terms of days of inability for work after workplace accidents According to information from the construction portal "baulinks.de" accidents involving a fall even cause about 50% of all fatal accidents. Reason enough - in addition to a professional building site safety - also to optimize the building materials in such a way that the risk to construction workers is minimized.

 

Noticeable drop in fine dust pollution

In addition to the high level of weight of materials and tools, the development of dust on construction sites plays a decisive role in the health of the workers. Of course they can protect themselves with breathing protection, but the practice often looks different. In addition, microscopically small dust particles sometimes get into the eyes even if appropriate protective measures are taken for the lungs and eyes. The main portion of this is caused by milling, cutting, and grinding work. But the mixing of conventional mortar in the bucket leads to increased development of dust - right in front of the bricklayer's face. It is not only about the moment of mixing itself, but also about the dwell time of the dust particles in the air. For example, a dust particle with a diameter of one micrometre, according to the calculations of the professional association of the construction industry (BG Bau) takes almost seven hours to fall one meter depending on the environmental conditions. By staying longer in the air, the microscopic dust particles are able to enter the lungs, where they can sometimes trigger permanent diseases of the airway and cardiovascular diseases.

 

In order to avoid any risk to the bricklayer, it is therefore advisable to avoid mortar dust wherever possible. This is exactly what the user achieves by using the maxit mörtelpads. The avoidance of mortar dust also has the highest priority in production. For its silos, maxit has managed to optimize the mixing process to such an extent that it is largely dust-free. Because the bricklayer only has to apply the mortar dry on the brickwork and then "activate" it with water, the mixing process is no longer necessary. But it is not only thick clouds of mortar dust that are a thing of the past. Thanks to the mortar pads, much less waste is produced on the construction site. This has a particularly positive effect with respect to mortar bags that have already been used. This is because bricklayers are no longer exposed to material residues when they compress and dispose of old mortar bags.

 

 

No chance of skin diseases

Overall, the mortar pad reduces the bricklayer's work to the essentials. This is because preparatory and follow-up work - such as the waste disposal mentioned, the mortar mixing process, or the time-consuming cleaning of work equipment - become considerably less significant in or are eliminated completely. A major advantage with regard to occupational safety here relates to serious skin diseases. Mortar reacts with water to form a strongly alkaline solution. In individual cases, contact with the skin with fresh mortar can lead to the formation of eczema - especially when cement is used as a binder. Nitrile-impregnated cotton gloves provide relief in this case, but it is unquestionably easiest to avoid the mixing process, as is the case with the mortar pad.

 

The bricklayer's skin will also thank him if he is no longer forced to clean special tools during work breaks, as well as shortly before the end of the day. As is generally known, frequent hand washing attacks the protective coating of the skin. This consists of a substance that contains fat which holds together the individual cells of the horny layer (outer skin layer). Under certain circumstances this natural greasy film can be destroyed by working in a damp environment for a prolonged period, which would weaken the skin's defences. In some cases, this can lead to itching and eczema. Time-consuming cleaning work must therefore be reduced to a minimum from the point of view of workplace safety.

General tips for workplace protection for bricklayers

Technical resources:

  • Use of misalignment devices for heavy brick units and plan elements
  • Use of chromate-reduced cement and solvent-free products
  • Use of height-adjustable tools
  • Use of ergonomically optimized work equipment

 

Organic preparation:

  • Optimization of the load distribution
  • Reduction in transportation routes
  • Storage of materials at usage height
  • Order and cleanliness on the construction site
  • Regular training of the staff (protection of  occupational safety and health)

 

Staff measures: 

  • Change in working posture for monotonous loads
  • Use of professional protective equipment (respiratory protection, knee protection, etc.)
  • Back-friendly lifting and carrying techniques
  • Skin care

Summary

Bricklaying is a physically demanding job. In future, too, they will be exposed to above-average strains. The responsibility for adequate occupational health and safety is, however, not just the responsibility of the legislature, the employer, and the craftsperson himself. Producers of building materials are also obliged to do this. If these can be inspired by practice in their development drafts, products are created that will make the day-to-day lives of workers easier and at the same time have great market potential. In the case of the maxit mörtelpad, the advantages for bricklayers on the construction site are as follows: around 559 tonnes less mortar per year, elimination of dust-intensive working processes, and less skin contact with alkaline mortar mixture.

The mortar pad is therefore an example of a construction product, which, in addition to the increase in turnover and working speed, also pays particular attention to the user. Contractors kill two birds with one stone: Thanks to the reduction in the working steps, you will be able to realize an average of 53 construction projects per year instead of 40 construction projects per year and become about 30% more efficient. At the same time, you are able to significantly increase the occupational health and safety of your employees.