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Masonry News Published: January 06, 2010 Both workers recovering after fall from scaffolding

By Victor TineStaff writer

NEWBURYPORT MASONRY NEWS — The condition of a city man is improving at the Boston hospital where he is recovering from injuries suffered in a Dec. 22 construction accident.

Gerard Boucher, 48, of 3 Broad St., was listed in fair condition at Massachusetts General Hospital yesterday.

He had been airlifted to Massachusetts General Hospital in critical condition after scaffolding gave way at a renovation project at 25-27 Kent St., plunging Boucher and co-worker Geraldo Hernandez from the second story of the building to the sidewalk.

Hernandez, 32, of 112 Cedar St., Haverhill is recovering at home after his discharge from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he was airlifted after the accident.

Inspectors from the Andover office of the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Adminstration were called in on the day of the accident, and their investigation is continuing, according to OSHA spokesman Ted Fitzgerald.

By law, OSHA inspections may take a maximum of six months to complete, he said, but most take less.

Renovation work to the building is being done by Boucher's company, G.M. Boucher Building Contractor Inc.

Boucher is an active builder in the area, often purchasing properties to renovate them. The listed owner of the Kent Street property is Kentson 25 Realty Trust LLC. The trustee is Thomas J. Williamson of Middleton, a masonry contractor who has done work frequently in the Newburyport area.

The property changed hands in early November and is undergoing extensive restoration and renovation.

Boucher and Hernandez were reportedly installing fascia board trim along the edge of the roof of the two-story house when the end of the scaffolding on which they were working gave way just before 1 p.m., throwing the men onto the concrete sidewalk below.

Masons in training prepare to show off talent Sarah Morris

Masonry News December 11, 2009Chris Countryman is receiving hands-on training for his future career as he helps create and oversee the construction of masonry pieces such as a waterfall and mosaic horse.

“There is so many things you can build with just bricks and different designs that anybody would want — a fireplace or patio or anything,” the 19-year-old from Stillwater said. “I definitely know I will use these at any place I go.”

Countryman is the project foreman for a masonry open house, which will showcase his work as well as his classmates’ at the Building Trades Center on the Meridian Technology Center campus.

“If someone asks me if I am an artist I would be like ‘no’ but if they were to see anything that I built they would be like ‘that is the coolest thing I have ever seen,’” Countryman said.

Josiah Stogsdill of Guthrie said he also enjoys the hands-on work that allows him to be creative and learn new things.

Stogsdill initially became interested in masonry after viewing open house projects during a tour.

“The sophomore tours got me interested in masonry because everything looked really interesting,” Stogsdill said.

Today, Stogsdill is involved in creating his own open house, which will showcase the students’ masonry skills from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18.

Instructor Bret Pickens said the open house project teaches students to work at a different pace, generates excitement and helps students be creative.

“It stretches them in ways they normally wouldn’t be stretched,” Pickens said. “Plus, working together as a team is key to bringing the open house together. Students learn to love and take ownership of the projects.”

Students work in teams of two to four people on each masonry piece for eight to 10 weeks to prepare for the event, mostly with donated materials.

“Our industry partners appreciate what CareerTech does to help train students,” Pickens said.

In what began as an open class, masonry has quickly grown to be a “really fun job” for Countryman.

“Definitely the hands-on is the best part,” Countryman said. “Another reason why I picked it is just I love construction. I love working with my hands. I love working outside and I have always wanted to do something that helps somebody else.”

While in the class, students spend about 80 percent of their time working on the structures and 20 percent in the classroom.

The class begins with basic masonry skills and advances to designing structures featured in the open house.

Afer the event, students will use the projects to learn how to do repair work.

“These students work so hard and learn so much,” Pickens said. “Masonry is an excellent trade to have when they leave Meridian. If they can get ahold of something they love and are good at — that’s why we do it, so they can better their lives.”

The masonry training offers students hands-on experience in brick, stone, block, ceramic tile and concrete construction. Once completed, the class qualifies students for positions such as brick masonry trainee, union apprenticeship, and residential and commercial construction.

For Zach Shann of Stillwater, the skills he has learned will go toward expanding his family’s business.

The 18-year-old said he hopes to start masonry work as a part of his father’s landscaping business.

It is a somewhat similar dream for Countryman, who said he is leaning toward specializing in fireplaces and outdoor patios since “that seems to be a really big thing.”

Countryman plans to open his future business in Oklahoma City.

11 chimney fires reported in 2009 In Sparta and White County

Masonry News Fire chief warns about dangersPublished: Monday, January 4, 2010 7:27 AM CSTKim Swindell

Firefighters in Sparta and White County responded to at least 11 chimney fires in 2009, with a larger number possible that may have gone unreported.

According to E-911 records, three of those fires occurred in January; two in February; one in May; one in October; one in November; and three in December.

According to Sparta Fire Chief Ed Kay, chimney fires could be avoided by following a few simple steps. Kay also said many times a chimney fire may occur while the residents are asleep. These fires may not last long and fizzle out before any major damage is done. However, this could prove to be a dangerous situation.

Kay said one of steps in ensuring these fires do not occur is proper maintenance. A certified chimney sweep should inspect the venting system annually and perform repairs, as well as clean the chimney.

Kay also warned carbon monoxide build-up is also another hazard from chimneys that have not been properly cleaned.

Use seasoned woods only. Build smaller, hotter fires, therefore producing less smoke. Never burn cardboard boxes, wrapping paper or trash in the fireplace. These can spark a chimney fire.

According to Chimney Safety Institute of America, chimneys expel the byproducts of substances produced when wood burns. These include smoke, water vapor, gases, unburned wood particles, hydrocarbon volatile, tar fog and assorted minerals. When these substances exit the fireplace and flow into the chimney, which is somewhat cooler, condensation occurs. The residue from this condensation sticks to the inner walls of the chimney and is called creosote.

Creosote is dark-colored and can be crusty and flaky, as well as tar-like. It can be drippy and sticky. Creosote is highly combustible. If enough build-up occurs, it can catch fire inside the chimney.

If a chimney fire occurs, get everyone out of the house. Call the fire department, if this can be done safely. Also, put a chimney fire extinguisher into the fireplace. Close the glass doors on the fireplace, if there are doors. Use a garden hose to spray down the roof (not the chimney) so the fire will not spread to the remainder of the house.

When chimney fires occur in masonry chimneys, the high temperatures at which they burn (around 2,000 degrees F.) can melt mortar, crack tiles and damage outer masonry material. If these are displaced, this provides a pathway for flames to reach the combustible wood frame of the house.

The following are some facts and figures from National Fire Prevention Association that are related to all forms of heating.

•In 2006, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 64,100 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 540 civilian deaths, 1,400 civilian injuries, and $943 million in direct property damage.

•In 2006 heating equipment fires accounted for 16 percent of all reported home fires (second behind cooking) and 21 percent of home fire deaths.

•Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for one-third (30 percent) of the home heating fires and three-fourths (73 percent) of home heating fire deaths in 2006.

•In 2003-2006, the leading factor contributing to home heating fires (28 percent) and deaths (46 percent) was heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding. These statistics exclude fires that were confined to a chimney, flue, fuel burner or boiler.

For tips on chimney Construction Click Here

WW adds one-man masonry division

Masonry News By JAIME CONEWILMINGTON Masonry News -- WW Building Supply, with locations in Wilmington and Newfane, has recently expanded to include a masonry division comprised solely of Christopher Millerick, originally from Guilford.

The family-run company is owned by Edward Druke of Newfane, who bought the business four years ago after working there for more than 20 years, said Millerick.

The store has never before had a masonry division, and Millerick said that many of his customers have followed him there.

"(The new division) brings in new people who may currently buy the type of product I sell, but then they end up also purchasing other products in the store," Millerick said.

Millerick was previously employed for 15 years by the Arthur Whitcomb masonry business, a large company that closed its Wilmington branch in October, three months after Millerick left to join the team at WW Building Supply.

"It got to be that they weren’t able to take care of their customers," Millerick said of his former employer.

The company decided to go the wholesale route, he said, providing product for stores like Home Depot.

Millerick said he felt like he was losing the part of the job he enjoyed most.

"I like having the ability to get out on the road, to go over options with homeowners and make recommendations," he said.

The masonry trade includes the sale of bricks, blocks, stone, patio products, chimneys, flues and mortar.

It’s a lot of work to care for his roughly 100 customers while at the same time teaching fellow employees about masonry, Millerick said, but he enjoys being busy, and WW Building supply is hoping to hire another employee for the masonry division in the spring.

He said the benefits to the store and the local community are many.

"It’s added a lot more traffic through the store, helped out with job security for the guys in the yard and the truck drivers, and if store makes more money then they have more to donate and give back to community," he said.

Contractor fined nearly $180,000, cited by OSHA for health violations

Masonry News December 30, 2009


The U.S. Dept. of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined a Chicago-based contractor nearly $180,000 after being cited for violating federal workplace health standards.

Era Valdivia Contractors Inc., a Chicago-based industrial painting subcontractor doing bridge sandblasting and painting on I-294 and I-55, was cited by OSHA with alleged willful and serious violations of federal workplace health standards. Proposed fines total $177,000, according to a release from OSHA.

After conducting a health inspection, OSHA is alleging three willful violations with a penalty of $168,000 for the company’s failure to do an initial assessment to determine if workers may be exposed to lead at or above OSHA defined limits; to collect samples from employees that may have been exposed to hazardous materials during their work shift; and to provide workers with suitable changing areas, as well as to maintain lead-free work surfaces, hand washing facilities and clean changing areas for employees. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Era Valdivia Contractors was also cited for three serious violations with proposed penalties of $9,000 for failure to provide workers with personal protective clothing at no cost; to dispose of contaminated clothing worn during the work shift in enclosed containers; and to maintain OSHA-required housekeeping standards. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

“The importance of protecting workers from material such as lead dust and other hazardous material associated with sandblasting and painting must not be overlooked by employers,” OSHA Calumet City Area Director Gary Anderson said. “There is never an excuse or reason not to ensure that this kind of work activity is performed safely.”

Prior to this inspection, Era Valdivia Contractors Inc. had been inspected 23 times by OSHA since 1991, with 17 of those inspections resulting in citations, eight of which involved lead violations.

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Company faces fine in worker's death

Masonry News for Wednesday, December 30, 2009 10:28 AM

A federal agency is proposing a six-figure fine against a masonry company for workplace-safety violations that contributed to the death of a worker in a scaffolding collapse.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration yesterday cited International Masonry Inc. of Columbus for intentional violations of safety standards in proposing fines totaling $140,800.

A company employee, Wilbert Johnson, 52, of Columbus, was killed and two others were injured July 1 when scaffolding collapsed while they were laying brick at the new headquarters of IGS Energy in Dublin.

Johnson died after falling 37 feet, according to OSHA officials.

International Masonry was cited for 11 violations, including improperly modifying the scaffolding, failing to properly install bracing and not ensuring the scaffolding was secured to prevent tipping.

The family-owned company, which employs about 100 people, has been cited for 41 violations since 1973, including in 2002 when a worker fell to his death from scaffolding while Pickerington North High School was under construction.

The company has 15 days to pay the fines, seek an informal conference or contest them before a review commission, OSHA said.

International Masonry has a commitment to workplace safety and does "not believe that there is any merit to the citations at issue," said a statement issued by the company's law firm, Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter of Columbus. The company is seeking a conference with OSHA to resolve differences.

Masonry News... Shown are: (top row) Gary Manning, contest judge; Jared Gandy, 2nd place; Rhett Hallman, 1st place; Calvin Brodie, contest planning committee; and Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry. (bottom row) Justin Helms, 5th place; Chris Lunsford, 4th place; Macy Williams, 3rd place; and Doug Burton, head judge.

Rhett Hallman was the 1st-place winner at the 56th Annual Masonry Apprentice Contest at the North Carolina State Fair in October.

Hallman, who works for McGee Brothers Co., won a $325 premium from the State Fair, a plaque and an assortment of sponsor prizes for his efforts. Apprenticeships have been the backbone of North Carolina’s work preparation programs for more than 70 years. Apprenticeship combines on-the-job training with related classroom instruction to prepare exceptional workers for North Carolina and America’s industry.

Jared Gandy, who also works for McGee Brothers Co., placed second. Macy Williams, who works for Brodie Contractors, took home 3rd-place honors.

Fifteen masonry apprentices competed in the contest. To be eligible to compete, apprentices must be registered in the occupation and training with an employer with a program registered with the N.C. Department of Labor.

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