With construction underway on the Pasco School District's 3rd High School, crews are using cutting edge equipment for productivity and safety.

The innovative technologies are called MULEs, material unit life enhancers that do the heavy lifting for crews with materials such as 12-inch blocks to build the school's gymnasium walls.

It's the first time MULEs are being used in Washington State for a project such as the one along Burns Road and Road 60. With 299,000 square feet of school to build, the machines will come in handy.

"PMI Masonry Inc. has brought them on the high school site to get a test run on them. And this looks like the future of block laying." says Pasco Schools Construction Program Manager John Weatherby. "It was pretty exciting to watch. Takes a lot of stress off the workers."

The idea behind the MULEs is to take stress off masonry workers because they don't have to lift the blocks. The most prevalent type of injury associated with masonry work is musculoskeletal injury due to bending, twisting and squatting.

"It's all manual labor. They had to pick the block up, lift it up over the rebar set, slide it down and then set it in place," Weatherby said. "The machine picks it up, sets it in place, and then they just do the final set with it. It saves a lot of intense labor."

The MULEs don't necessarily save time however as laying block can be done faster by hand and the equipment must be monitored when it's in use. But they should cut down on the number of high-risk factors associated with masonry such as shoulder, arm and wrist injuries.

Meantime, developers are working with the masonry industry to explore the production of larger 32-inch-long block units, with the aim of further enhancing efficiency and cost-effectiveness in future masonry projects.

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Gallery Credit: Michelle Heart