From the Desk of Gary Peifer:

Brothers and Sisters,

Once again, the 100+ temperatures and “Dog Days of Summer” are upon us. And once again we must be vigilant to protect ourselves and our co-workers from the dangers that lurk in that Sunshine. Your Union will be checking to see that heat illness prevention measures are in place on jobsites. Cooled, clean drinking water and shaded rest / lunch break areas are to be employer provided on all jobsites to insure your safety and wellbeing. Members are encouraged to stay hydrated, wear light colored protective clothing and sunscreen, obtain sufficient sleep, limit alcohol, rest in the shade and above all, to practice the buddy system of monitoring signs of heat related fatigue and illness in yourself and co-workers. If you see or experience the following notify your foreman and immediately seek medical attention. HEAT CAN BE A KILLER!

HEAT EXAUSTION:                         HEAT STROKE:
Dizziness, Headache,                      Red Hot Dry Skin, High Temperature;
Sweaty Skin, Weakness;                 Confusion, Convulsions;
Cramps, Nausea, Vomiting;           Fainting;
Fast Heart Rate;

But the sun isn’t the only source of high energy affecting BAC members this year. I recently attended the GC Laser Systems Training and certification program at IMI’S Flynn Center in Bowie, Maryland. The GC (Game Changer) Laser system is a class 4 infrared laser which creates a rotating beam focused through interchangeable lenses to create plasma (photo mechanical, photothermal and photochemical effects) at a given point. Adjusting the power and pulse duration of the beam provides for various levels of the effects described above and therefore the ability to clean without altering or damaging the distinct types of material you are cleaning. It will effectively clean most materials other than cellulose (paper) which lends itself to the use of blue painters’ tape to shield any surface that you wish to protect or not clean.

The beam will penetrate through water and clean any surface at any angle without creating any harmful chemical waste or pollution to the environment. The primary danger posed to the operator is optic exposure, which is eliminated with special goggles and because the focal length of the beam is very short, the optical danger to the public can be controlled by tarping around the operator and object to be cleaned. In the forty-year history of continuous laser use in conservation and restoration, only one person has lost their sight. The only other operator personal protection required is the use of a fitted organic/particulate respirator to avoid the inhalation of the carbon created by the plasma cleaning process. Carbon is a naturally occurring substance and will dissipate under normal atmospheric conditions. The amount of carbon created by cleaning an average building would fit in pint sized jar. The system is very quiet and portable at 16”x 24”x 29”. It weighs seventy-five pounds, requires only a 110-volt power source and can operate around the clock with only minor cleaning and crew changes.

What does this newly perfected technology mean for us as masonry workers? It is the beginning of an era of efficiently cleaning and restoring masonry. It will increase productivity and reduce the dangers to us and the environment by eliminating most of the methods we’ve used for almost a century. The concept of repeatable, consistent results by different skilled craftworkers cleaning and restoring masonry will become a reality. It’s use, like all other tools, takes practice and skill to perfect and it like a trowel is only as good as the craftworker using it. Progress will not come at the price of skill and pride.  The fact that it will eliminate the industry practices that either damage or permanently alter the masonry material being cleaned and fail prematurely is the real game changer.

As a Union, we have both an opportunity and an obligation to adopt and utilize this technology to promote the continued use of masonry and the trained skilled craftworkers that we represent. We will be encouraging our restoration and masonry contractors to adopt the technology behind the GC Laser System to increase market share and promote the use of masonry in a “Green California”. In doing so we may have found the key to be able to truly profess to architects, engineers and building owners that “MASONRY IS FOREVER”

Be Well.