Every year, around 80,000 construction workers in Great Britain suffer from an injury or illness directly related to, or gets worse as a result of, their working practice.
The UK construction industry is continually looking for ways to reduce risk and increase health and safety in the workplace. Compared to others, this industry has a long history of higher rates of Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WRMSDs) largely due to the physical nature of the work required.
In particular, bricklayers, joiners and plasterers are trades that are frequently cited within the construction industry as being at a higher risk of WRMSDs. These disorders affect muscles, joints and tendons in all parts of the body and typically stem from tough working conditions.
Professional Builder recently highlighted plasterer Russell Ennis as being the toughest tradie for 2018 following a Swarfega poll. With the conditions faced by plasterers on a day-to-day basis, this is not hard to believe.
Knauf, however, has a solution in the form of its Airless spray-applied plasters.
Matt Smith, owner of Spray Plaster Specialists and a regular user of the Knauf Readymixed Finishes (RMF) range can attest to the tough conditions of traditional plastering. “We have been using spray plaster for nearly 20 years now and it’s made life so much easier because it is much easier on the body than traditional plastering. The wear and tear that your body goes through when traditional plastering can be horrendous, mixing material is tiresome and dust gets everywhere.”
Injuries in the workplace typically stem from operating in fixed or constrained body positions, continual repetitions of movements, force concentrated on small parts of the body such as a shoulder or wrist and a pace of activity that doesn’t allow for sufficient recovery between movements. All of these directly relate to traditional plastering.
Knowing this, Knauf’s Research and Development department actively searched for an innovative way to improve the working conditions of plasterers using their products. The Knauf RMF systems, in particular its range of Knauf Airless spray plastering products, were created with plasterers in mind.
The highest risk of all has been falls from height with almost 100 fatal injuries occurring in the construction sector in the past five years. Plasterers are often working at height, with the requirement to access ceilings being very common. Scaffolding or steps are often used; however, this heightens the risk to plasterers with overreaching a common occurrence.
Matt adds: “With Knauf’s Airless products, plastering can take place at ground level, reaching up to 3 metres high, eliminating the need for scaffolding or steps. We use pole extensions to work on ceilings which saves a lot of time, but it’s also better on your body.”
Breathing and lung problems alone account for around 3,000 construction workers’ injuries with many of these being identified as a result of dust. To reduce these problems, goggles and dust masks should be worn at all times to prevent dust particles entering the body.
Knauf’s spray-applied plaster is supplied in a premixed formula, a liquid product free from dust and ready to be decanted into the spray machine. This reduces the amount of dust particles plasterers are exposed to and minimises product waste as any unused product can simply be recycled back in to the hopper.
Traditional plastering techniques require very strenuous physical activity to the arm and shoulder which can lead to injury over time. The continuous force applied to these joints and muscles during application can lead to tendonitis or pinches tendons in the shoulder which can result in absences from work.
Not only is the application process when using spray-applied plaster quicker, it is far less strenuous on the body.
The productivity benefits of spray-applied plaster are most prevalent where there is a lot of repetitive plasterwork required. For every 27 minutes of work, contractors are getting an extra 100m2 of productivity.
There are many benefits for switching from traditional plastering techniques to spray-applied systems to which many companies can already attest to. While speed and ease of application are the most talked about, the health and safety benefits cannot be overlooked.