Focus On the Sustainability of Your Health and Career

The editorial focus for the August/September issue examines the multiple environmental and health benefits of installing wood floors. But when was the last time you took a moment to focus on your own sustainability and health?

If I were to jump into the wood floor time machine and travel back to my first year in the business, when someone asked me about using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), I would have assumed they meant a helmet of some sort. Maybe a hard hat, which all of us installers certainly hate wearing these days on those sites that require it. It will just slow me down, right? That was my mental position back then: “Get out of my way and don’t slow me down! We have a closing coming up and we need to get this final coat down.” Fast forward to today, and there are many things related to the world of PPE that I would do differently if given that chance.

For starters, I spent years with a B2 Edger humming in my ear with no ear protection. I can tell you now, at 51 years old, that was a big mistake. Just ask anyone who sits down to watch TV with me at home; I always need the volume higher, as I simply can’t hear it.

What about knee pads? How many of you 20-something tough guys out there are racking a floor without them, or worse, using a trowel for glue on concrete with no knee pads? Big mistake. Huge. You are destined to develop some long-term issues later in life if you keep that up (particularly if you like to ski, which, I do).

Eyewear is also a must unless you like a scratched cornea from the heavy dust coming off a chop saw. And while we are talking about dust, please wear a dust mask. ALWAYS wear a dusk mask. Did you know that oak dust is a carcinogen? Put simply, #notgood. Ever notice that when you’re cutting Santos or Brazilian cherry, your throat gets scratchy and swells up and closes in on your wind pipe? Like I said, not good. And respirators to combat fumes are a must, need I say more? There is a reason the VOC laws keep changing, and it is about your health.

Don’t want to take my word for it? Not sure where to start? The NWFA has you covered. Whether you need to brush up on the safety gear needed when sanding and finishing a wood floor, fire and electrical safety, or even the health and safety concerns associated with working with the materials we use every day, the Sand & Finish Safety learning path available through the NWFA Online University addresses it all.

I’ll admit that when I first heard the term sustainability, I thought about trees. While that’s important too and we’ll get to that in the following pages, let’s think a little deeper. When you are out there on the job site and thinking about sustainability, add to that your career sustainability and safety. There are some things we know today that we didn’t know as much about in 1986 when I first started on the tools in this industry. Trust me, when you’re my age, you’ll thank me.

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