With rising demand from industry stakeholders to improve our social impact and reduce construction’s negative effect on environmental health, building materials manufacturers have a unique role in providing sustainable solutions that both offer enhanced performance and create a better future. The construction industry is the largest consumer of the world’s resources and raw materials, which employs a vast number of essential workers that are crucial for maintaining society’s growth and prosperity. As such, leading flooring supply manufacturers are taking a three-pronged approach to sustainability and safety and are making bold efforts to innovate and improve the health and wellness of the installer workforce, create building solutions that are safer and less toxic and make strides in reducing waste for a cleaner planet.
Ergonomics and Worker Safety
Many professionals talk about the industry’s labor shortage, but perhaps equally important is our need to promote the health, safety and efficacy of our current workforce. Ergonomics refers to the study of people in their working environment and has become a growing concern to major manufacturers. The physical strain that installers’ bodies go through on a daily basis puts them at a continually higher risk of injury and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). This workforce handles tasks that range from carrying heavy loads to performing repetitive tasks to safely navigating often chaotic jobsites, manufacturing facilities, warehouses and laboratories. In 2019 alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated that 80,000 construction workers lost work time ranging from weeks to months due to various workplace-related incidents, including eye, musculoskeletal and respiratory injuries. Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their workers, but our efforts don’t have to stop there and should focus on further helping lower the staggering injury and ailment statistics associated with the industry.
Increasingly, flooring material manufacturers are developing lightweight products that deliver the same properties and functions at sometimes half the weight of the previous formula. We’ve found that these solutions have grown in demand because they are less of a hazard for workers and alleviate some of the strain on tile installation systems that are typically quite heavy. This shift in the industry has been evident across the board and includes lighter-weight alternatives for adhesives, board materials, shower systems and many other product categories. Overwhelmingly, manufacturers like Laticrete are providing low-weight solutions that don’t compromise the performance of well-known installation materials. In addition to the beneficial effects for the installer, we’re seeing improved effectiveness at the worksite, as installation times can go much quicker when the workforce has less of a burden.
Another way the industry is tackling this problem is by improving education and providing the training and resources needed for a workforce to perform their jobs safely. As we work toward the training and recruitment of the future generation of installers, we must safeguard the health and wellness of the professionals we have now.
Nowadays, flooring material manufacturers are developing lightweight products that deliver the same properties and functions at sometimes half the weight of the previous formula. They have found that these solutions have grown in demand because they are less of a hazard for workers and alleviate some of the strain on tile installation systems that are typically quite heavy. Photo courtesy of Laticrete
A Safe and Clean Work Environment
The health and safety of our workers also extend to the components within the products our installers use on a daily basis. For manufacturers, making installations easier on the installer is a core focus of new product design and innovation. In addition to enhancing the performance of a project’s outcome, we must also evaluate how our building solutions impact the health and safety of the workers who install our products every day. One important facet of this initiative is the deployment of more products with zero respirable crystalline silica or below levels deemed by OSHA as harmful. As a common hazard in many jobsites, respirable silica can have long-term health consequences when inhaled, especially on a regular basis.
Another part of the equation that is of paramount importance for inventors is offering solutions that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are found in many carbon-based materials, including paints, adhesives, coatings, sealers and many commonly used products. VOC is measured both in content and in emissions and, when emitted into the air, the VOCs interact with light and/or air to form ground-level ozone, which is a precursor to the formation of smog. Because many construction materials already contain VOCs, manufacturers are working on producing options that are low VOC to reduce any added risk to workers and inhabitants of the buildings where they are installed.
To contribute to the betterment of the environment, Laticrete invented the Eco Grout Color Selector, an innovation that will help prevent millions of plastic channel pieces from being discarded into landfills per year and provides a color-matched deposit of paint and a textured profile with an accurate representation of physical grout. Photo courtesy of Laticrete
Sustainable Materials That Reduce Waste
As social responsibility and sustainability are required from manufacturers now more than ever, the industry must make strides toward tackling a broader environmental problem. Awareness and education of our planet’s health have magnified in recent years and, as construction professionals, we must do our part to reduce our waste and offer more environmentally friendly solutions. From implementing sustainable packaging and innovative technology to launching paper alternatives that reduce waste, manufacturers are taking strides to contribute their talents in this crucial movement.
For example, Laticrete recently unveiled the industry’s first-ever, eco-friendly alternative to the plastic grout channels currently utilized in the market for grout color sampling. The Laticrete Eco Grout Color Selector is an innovation that will help prevent millions of plastic channel pieces from being discarded into landfills per year and provides a color-matched deposit of paint and a textured profile with an accurate representation of physical grout.
Sustainability should be more than a corporate positioning statement. For manufacturers who are serious about protecting our environment and promoting the health and safety of our workforce, the call to progressively engineer meaningful change is an expectation and a responsibility. Through innovative solutions that combine both advanced performance and positive environmental impact, we can lead a movement in the industry toward a better, brighter tomorrow.