Staying healthy at work should be a focus for every worker, in every industry. That being said, wood flooring professionals face a lot of unique challenges when it comes to both workplace safety and health. Wood flooring installation and refinishing are perhaps two of the most physically strenuous professions out there.
Let’s start with the wear and tear on the body. Installers and sanders spend hours every day in awkward postures, kneeling and squatting. They also handle moving heavy loads, manipulating various tools and materials during installation, and completing tasks that involve repetitive motion. Over time this can wreak havoc. There’s also the potential for exposure to elements that are hazardous to the lungs such as wood dust and fumes from the finishes; the deafening noise from the equipment used; and the dangers of the saws and other tools used. The list goes on and on.
I remember back to my installation days when I was 23 years old and thought that I would never get old or tired. I could go all day, and as a point of pride, I tried to outwork and outlast all of my employees. I often say that my father taught me to work hard. I wish now that I had spent more time working smart.
When you are on a big install or sand and finish job you are pressing to get the work done, and things like hearing, eye, and dust protection take a backseat to “let’s get this thing done today.” Lots of days the dust mask got clogged with dust and sweat, the headphones gave me a rash around my ears, and the safety glasses slid down my nose. So I tore them off and pressed on. Now I’m 60 years old, and boy do I wish I had taken a more measured approach to my work.
When you get to be 60, you will find that, like a professional athlete, the rigors of our profession take their toll. Be good enough and be smart enough to charge a rate that allows you to make a great living and still have the time to do the job right. Our profession is a marathon, not a sprint. You won’t be young forever.
Our colleagues who work in the manufacturing plants, in the warehouse, on a delivery route, and even in the office also face job-specific health risks. Issues with health and safety often lead to losses of time and money for both the employer and the employee. Following best practices to look after the health of workers can have an enormous impact on profits for the company, as well as the well-being of the employee.
So I ask you, what are you doing to protect your health and the health of your team?
The features in this issue examine multiple ways you can stay healthy while on the job. Also, the NWFA Online University offers multiple courses covering a variety of safety topics. Whether you need to brush up on the 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 Safety learning path available through the NWFA Online University addresses it all.
When it comes to your health, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Pay attention to what you’re doing, wear the appropriate protective gear, and take care of yourself!