Bring back the Pride: 12 Ways to Bring Pride Back into Masonry

I hear it every day.  “We can’t find good masons.”  Or “There’s not enough labor out there.” The problem is two-fold, in my opinion.

  1. We can’t find people who want to work in masonry.

  2. We aren’t training enough people to fill the gap of those who are starting to retire.

 I’m the proud daughter of a masonry contractor.  My dad called himself an “artistic manipulator of the burnt clay product.” He started as a laborer for a company, went through an apprenticeship, was a mason, became a foreman, moved into estimating…. All with the same company.  When that company started to slow down, he and my mom started their own company.  He had pride in what he did. And I’m proud of the work he has done over the years and the work our company helps masons to do now.

I think this is something we are really missing out on.  We need to bring back the pride

What masons do is nothing less than an art.  Think about being an electrician or a plumber or a framer.  Sure, they’re also proud professions that are absolutely necessary. But what masons do is beautiful and lasting.  It’s something you can be proud of for generations to come.

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How can you help bring back the pride to masonry?

Here’s a 12 ideas to get you started.

  1. Make a big deal out of the projects your crews are on.  Tell them about it.  They like to know details like how many brick are on it, what it will be, etc.  Some companies have hats or shirts made for really big projects to give to their guys.  Something small like that can go a long way.  You’ll find the guys are proud to be a part of something like this.

  2. Take part in masonry competitions throughout the country.  These are a chance for the best masons to show just how great they are.  These guys (and hopefully one day gals) are beasts- the amount of brick they can lay is nothing short of amazing.  Encouraging and supporting your guys to train and then participate in these can be a great way to show that this is a great trade to be in. Check out the 2019 SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500® to learn more.

  3. We build cool stuff but some of them may not ever get to see the finished project.  Consider doing a company newsletter, whether paper or digitally.  Or maybe do a Facebook page where you can share pictures and they can too.  The younger generations live on this kind of stuff.  Keeping your website up to date is important too.

  4. Make new hires feel welcome by introducing them to the team they’re working with.  Your crew should be a team.  This means they know and help each other out.  They watch out for the new guy and help them, showing them the ins and outs of both the company and project they’re starting on. You’ll find their productivity will go up substantially if you’ll do this.  And, really, how hard would it be to introduce them at your weekly toolbox talk and pair them up with someone?  This will give your current employees something to be proud of doing as well.

  5. Train new hires appropriately on what expectations are, what benefits they have access to, and, most importantly, safety.  It takes time to do this, but you’ll save a lot of headaches by doing so and they’ll know your company culture and be better acclimated to it this way.  Spending time to do so shows you care about them as individuals.  Happy employees = productive employees most of the time.

  6. Have a company party yearly.  This doesn’t have to be anything fancy but it’s a way for everyone to get together and see each other.  Maybe do a slide show so their family can see the projects they’ve been on over the past year.  Think of how proud your kids are when they show you all of the projects they’ve worked on for open house at school.  It’s the same concept.

  7. Advance from within your company when you can.  Provide a career path that they can easily see.  Some of the best superintendents, project managers, and estimators were labors and masons first.  People want to be proud to grow up and advance within a company. 

  8. Recruit from high schools by creating relationships with counselors.  We know that everyone isn’t going to college and doesn’t need to.  Providing information on a career path in masonry and showing off the awesome projects they could work on, can help with recruiting. Check out the Top 10 Reasons to Join the Masonry Team booklet by MCAA. It’s available to MCAA members for free so be sure to order yourself some for your next recruiting efforts.

  9. Communicate effectively- they want to know what’s in the pipeline and where they may be going next.  Daily meetings may be time-consuming but a quick 5-10 meeting to tell the crew what their goals are might make the difference between them making production or not. Also, get some excitement going about upcoming work.  Also, communicate any changes effectively- ex: safety, change in address, policies, holidays, etc.

  10. Celebrate victories- whether it be 100,000 hours injury free, topping out a wall, landing a big project, receiving a new piece of equipment, or even personal victories. 

  11. Provide your crews with good equipment and products - If you keep giving them stuff that breaks down or doesn’t work well, it will not only slow your project down but they’ll also realize it’s not worth taking care of.  And so the cycle continues.  Providing good equipment and then training and requiring them to maintain it well is a way to instill pride (and responsibility) in some of the younger generations.

  12. Consider a yearbook- whether digital or paper- that you put pictures of all of the projects completed in the last year that you can share with your teams.  You can be sure they’ll be proud of this.

Camden Conte’ - M2 and P Series Hydro Mobile Mast Climbers

Camden Conte’ - M2 and P Series Hydro Mobile Mast Climbers

That’s a lot of ideas.  Don’t be overwhelmed. Start small.  You’re probably already doing some of these so why not just make sure everyone in the company is aware? If you’re not doing any of these, I challenge you to pick 1 or 2 that you can quickly implement for your teams.  Do your part to bring back the pride in masonry.  Whether you’re a Project Manager, a laborer, Superintendent, truck driver, or the payroll clerk, you have a lot to be proud of in your company!

Post by:  Elizabeth "Liz" Graves, Sales Manager at Spec Rents, LLC.  Contact Liz at

OSHA to Release Questions and Answers Regarding the Silica Rule

OSHA to Release Questions and Answers Regarding the Silica Rule

- Update from MCAA

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Silica Update

An Important Update On Silica

We have learned that OSHA will be releasing approximately 300 questions and answers regarding the silica rule. They are clarifications to the rule and will help contractors understand the rule better. Below is a quick summary from the CISC attorney giving you a summary about the questions. The MCAA worked in conjunction with the coalition on these questions. You will find several questions specific to masonry installation and we are confident that you will find the clarifications helpful.

We want to remind you that if you have an OSHA inspection and silica is brought up, discussed or you receive a citation for silica, we would like to hear about it. We are tracking the enforcement side of silica across all the trades and where we see issues or interpretation discrepancies, we will be asking OSHA for clarification and explanation and if warranted a discharge of a potential citation if it was done in error. Communication will be key as we see the enforcement of this newer rule likely pick up in the months ahead.

Jeff Buczkiewicz, President, MCAA

OSHA's Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard For Construction

Frequently Asked Questions

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has just released a set of 53 Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) to provide guidance to employers and employees regarding OSHA’s respirable crystalline silica standard for construction. Through the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (“CISC”), Mason Contractors Association of America was involved in the formulation of these FAQs.

The development of the FAQs stemmed from litigation filed against OSHA by numerous construction industry trade associations challenging the legality of OSHA’s rule. OSHA has also agreed to issue a Request for Information (“RFI”) on Table 1 to revise the Table to improve its utility. Mason Contractors Association of America will continue to look for ways to work with OSHA to improve the workability of this significant rule.

The FAQs are extensive and organized by topic. A short introductory paragraph is included for each group of questions and answers to provide background information about the underlying regulatory requirements. While employers are encouraged to review all of the FAQs, the following are some of the clarifications provided in the document.


The standard applies to all occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica in construction work, except where employee exposures will remain below an Action Level (“AL”) of 25 µg/m3, calculated as an 8-hour time weighted average (“TWA”), under any foreseeable conditions. The exception is intended to ensure that the standard does not apply to employees whose work results in only minimal silica exposures.

The FAQs clarify that many common construction tasks are likely to be outside the scope of the standard because they typically generate exposures below the AL. This includes mixing small amounts of mortar; mixing small amounts of concrete; mixing bagged, silica-free drywall compound; mixing bagged exterior insulation finishing system base and finish coat; and removing concrete formwork. In addition, tasks where employees are working with silica-containing products that are, and are intended to be, handled while wet, are likely to generate exposures below the AL (examples include finishing and hand wiping block walls to remove excess wet mortar, pouring concrete, and grouting floor and wall tiles). The FAQs also state that many silica-generating tasks performed for only 15 minutes or less a day will fall outside the scope of the standard.

Table 1

The standard permits employers to select from two methods of compliance to control exposures to respirable crystalline silica: “specified exposure control methods” commonly referred to as Table 1 or “alternative exposure control methods.” Employers that follow Table 1 do not have to assess employee exposures or separately ensure compliance with the permissible exposure limit. Table 1 includes common construction tasks.

The FAQs clarify that the Table 1 requirement that employers “operate and maintain” tools “in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions to minimize dust emissions,” applies only to manufacturer instructions that are related to dust control. Other information in these instructions, including recommended respiratory protection, do not have to be followed for purposes of the standard.

For a few tasks on Table 1, respirator requirements vary based on task duration, i.e., whether the task is performed for “less than or equal to four hours/shift” or “greater than four hours/shift.” The FAQs make clear that an employer does not have to track the exact amount of time that employees are performing a job throughout a shift to be in compliance with Table 1. Rather, before a task is performed, an employer must make a good-faith judgment about whether the task will take more than four hours. If the employer anticipates that an employee will be engaged in a task for more than four hours, the employer must provide the employee, at the beginning of the shift, the respiratory protection required in the “greater than four hours/shift” column on Table 1. If, in contrast, the employer anticipates that an employee will be engaged in a task for four hours or less, the employer needs to provide respiratory protection in accordance with the “less than or equal to four hours/shift” column. Finally, the FAQs clarify that handheld powered demolition hammers with bushing tools and tile saws are covered by Table 1.


The standard includes requirements related to housekeeping on construction worksites. In particular, employers must not allow dry sweeping or dry brushing “where such activity could contribute to employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica unless wet sweeping, HEPA-filtered vacuuming or other methods that minimize the likelihood of exposure are not feasible.” In addition, employers must not allow compressed air to be used to clean clothing or surfaces where such activity could contribute to employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica unless: (1) the compressed air is used in conjunction with a ventilation system that effectively captures the dust cloud created by the compressed air, or (2) no alternative method is feasible.

The FAQs clarify that if employee exposure will remain below the AL under any foreseeable conditions, the prohibition on dry sweeping, dry brushing, and the use of compressed air for cleaning clothing and surfaces does not apply. They also clarify that the prohibition on these activities only apply to housekeeping activities, not to the use of these practices to perform a work task.

Written Exposure Control Program

The standard requires employers to establish and implement a written exposure control plan that contains at least the following elements: (1) a description of the tasks in the workplace that involve exposure to silica; (2) a description of the engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection used to limit employee exposure to silica for each task; (3) a description of the housekeeping measures used to limit employee exposure to silica; and (4) a description of the procedures used to restrict access to work areas, when necessary, to minimize the number of employees exposed to silica and their level of exposure, including exposures generated by other employers or sole proprietors.

The FAQs clarify that the standard does not require employers to develop a new written plan for each job or worksite. It requires only that employers have a written exposure control plan applicable to each worksite. Employers may develop a single comprehensive written exposure control plan that covers all required aspects of the plan for all work activities at all worksites. The FAQs also clarify that when silica generating tasks are being performed, the standard is not intended to prohibit all employees from entering entire areas of a construction site simply because employees in those areas are performing some work involving the generation of silica. The rule calls only for minimizing the number of employees in the relevant work areas. The standard does not preclude employees from entering work areas where silica-generating tasks are occurring when it is necessary for them to do so.

Medical Surveillance

The standard requires construction employers to make medical surveillance available at no cost, and at a reasonable time and place, to any employee who is required by the silica standard to use a respirator for 30 or more days a year. An initial examination must be offered within 30 days of initial assignment, unless the employee has received a medical examination that meets the requirements of the standard within the last three years.

The employee will receive a written medical report within 30 days of each exam that includes: (1) a statement indicating the results of the medical examination; (2) any recommended limitations on the employee’s use of respirators; (3) any recommended limitations on the employee’s exposure to silica; and (4) a statement, if applicable, that the employee should be examined by a specialist. The employer must also obtain a written medical opinion within 30 days of each exam, which contains more limited information than the report to the employee. The opinion to the employer contains the date of the examination, a statement that the examination has met the requirements of the standard, and any recommended limitations on the employee’s use of respirators.

The FAQs make some important clarifications regarding medical surveillance. The silica standard does not preclude in-house health care providers from performing the required medical surveillance examinations. In addition, the standard does not preclude employers from receiving the same information that employees receive from the surveillance examination, if it is received for other purposes and through other means, such as through workers compensation records and proceedings. The FAQs also make clear that the standard requires employers to make medical surveillance available to qualifying employees, but does not require that employees participate in the surveillance.

More information and updates can be found at

Masonry Madness 2018

Today's the day-

Masonry Madness 2018.


2018 Spec Mix Bricklayer 500®

The lineup includes:

  • MCAA's Masonry Skills Challege
    • Showcasing masonry apprentices from across the country
  • Spec Mix's Toughest Tender®
    • The world's toughest tenders compete to see who can set up their Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 workstation, with a chance to take home $2,500 cash and prizes.
  • MCAA's Fastest Trowel on the Block
    • Each contestant's goal is to complete as much of a 30 foot long wall as possible, using 8"x8"x16" CMU and the provided mortar in a twenty-minute heat.
  • Spec Mix Bricklayer 500®
    • Each team consists of a mason and mason tender building a 26 foot 8 inch, double wythe brick wall. The most bricks laid in one hour and counted under the quality rules wins the event, winning over $100,0
    • You can watch the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500® World Championship through the 2018 Live Webcast if you aren't lucky enough to be watching it in person at the World of Masonry in Las Vegas today.

Hydro Mobile is one of the many proud sponsors of the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500®.

Check out those beautiful brand new Hydro Mobile M2s.... not to mention the shiny red Ford!

Check out those beautiful brand new Hydro Mobile M2s.... not to mention the shiny red Ford!


From Texas we have two representatives in the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500®

North Texas:  Mason – Mario Landeros - 554 Brick, Tender – Cristobal Anguiana, from Artisan Masonry – Royce City, TX

South Texas:  Mason - David Chavez - 691 Brick, Tender - Miguel Contreras, from Ranch Masonry, Houston, Texas.

Good Luck to all of today's contestants.  And to all of the spectators, enjoy a great display of the art of Masonry!!!

Post by:  Elizabeth "Liz" Graves, Sales Manager at Spec Rents, LLC.  Contact Liz at