Football players find themselves in the center of the controversy over concussions and the long-term effects of head injuries.
While there is great debate among the fans, doctors, teams, and players as to what role repeated impacts and concussions have on future brain function and mental health, there is no question that professional football players wear out quickly.
The pounding and smashing that football fans pay to see wears on the body in ways that other sports simply do not. There is a reason the average age of an NFL player is 25 when it is 35 for a pro golfer.
A Weighty Subject – A Heavy Topic
Granite slab installers are the blockers and tacklers on the grid-iron in the stone industry. Like the NFL, injuries are commonplace and retirements are premature.
Unfortunately, this well known but oft-ignored issue has not yet reached controversy status because knee, shoulder, neck, and back injuries are just accepted as inevitable for installers in the interest of keeping the fans happy.
The stone industry as a whole, shop owners, and installers themselves must become familiar with the following 3 realities:
1. Extreme weight + awkward shapes = dangerous lifts
While a 20 square foot counter is not considered “large” by many stone professionals…it is inhumanely heavy at 18 pounds per s/f. If it has a bump-out, jog, or “L” at one end, it must first be lifted to above cabinet height, requiring the installer to then transfer all the weight to one arm, one leg, and one side of his body as he leans over the edge of the cabinet to set it down.
What could possibly go wrong?!
There isn’t a weight trainer on earth who would allow their athletes to attempt such a stupid and dangerous lift in the gym, yet it happens every day on job sites in our industry.
2. Cumulative Effect
Assume an average job is 80 s/f. First, the counters must be loaded by hand into the install vehicle. Then the counters must be lifted a second time off the rig and onto some type of dolly or cart to transport the counters into the work area. Assuming there are no stairs and that all the pieces will fit the first time, the installers get to lift every counter for the third time! At this point, they are fatigued while making those reaching, straining, and dangerous lifts to the cabinet top.
Doing the math…a crew will lift in excess of 2 tons of countertops before they even begin to adjust, level, and complete the install. That’s 10 tons per week, 42 tons per month, and a staggering 480 tons per year if they get two weeks vacation!
3. No time to recover
Most stone shops cannot afford to pay highly skilled second and third-string installers to pace on the sidelines, waiting to be called up by the coach. As a result, the first string installers rarely and sometimes NEVER get a rest. Like the companies that employ them, installers can’t afford to take time off to heal, so the inevitable minor injuries become chronic and severe. Eventually, the become career-ending.
Our industry doesn’t need stats or studies or an injured reserve list to tell us what we already know: Installing 3cm counters every day using bodies and brute force is illogical and inhumane.
We need is a revolution in the way we think about our installers and we must invest in equipment for our installers in the same way we have invested in forklifts, booms, clamps, cranes and vacuum lifters for our shop crews.
In the stone business, the shop guys seem to have all the toys and all the advantages. Even the most simple shop set up will have a forklift, slab clamp, and boom, not to mention lots of extra room, including bathrooms and break rooms. Many have vacuum lifters,...