During a recent trip to Chicago, Illinois, ElevatorInfo had the chance to sit down and talk with Nate Hefner, a U.S. Veteran working as an elevator mechanic in Chicago.

Nate did not always plan for a career in the elevator trade; in fact, his degree is in Architecture. After transitioning out of active duty as a member of the Army National Guard, he knew that he never wanted a job where he would be forced to sit behind a computer or work in an office all day. A close friend and fellow Veteran who is a member of the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 2 in Chicago suggested Nate check out the elevator trade. Right away, Nate knew that it would be a good fit.

“My favorite part of my job is actually working with my hands,” Nate explained. “That’s why I really like new construction… it’s more hands-on – measuring, beating things with a hammer, and actually building something that was not there when you got to the job a couple of weeks before.”

When asked about what makes him good at his job, Nate was quick to give a shout-out to the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP). While other elevator training programs in the industry are offered via correspondence course, NEIEP is a four-plus year USDOL-Registered Apprenticeship, held to rigorous standards. Weekly classroom training that incorporates hands-on practical labs and virtual simulations administered by some of the best-trained instructors in the industry are what sets the IUEC’s program apart from the rest. “Once you graduate (from) the NEIEP program and you take that (Mechanic Exam) test, you know you can start day one of building that elevator without having somebody tell you how,” said Nate. “NEIEP has taught you how to build that elevator safely.”

From foundational classes covering the basics of working in the elevator trade to advanced training modules on troubleshooting the complex systems elevator constructors encounter on the job daily, NEIEP provides IUEC members with the knowledge and skills they need to do their jobs thoroughly, efficiently, and above all, safely. In a field with as many potential hazards as this one, safety must be a central component of any training program. This is why the NEIEP apprenticeship begins with a safety course for probationary members, and has included in its required apprenticeship training certifications in OSHA 10, Scaffold and Access Industry Association’s (SAIA) Competent Person Training for Framed Scaffolds, Scaffold and Access Industry Association’s (SAIA) Training Program for Suspended Scaffolds, American Heart Association Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED, and Certified Signal Person and Rigger (Level 1), an industry-specific ANSI/ANAB accredited certification in rigging and signaling.

The NEIEP apprenticeship curriculum covers not only the individual steps involved in performing a task but guides students through an in-depth exploration of electrical and mechanical theory and application. Once an apprentice successfully completes the eight-semester program, logs 8,000 hours of work under the supervision of an experienced mechanic, and passes the capstone validated Mechanic Exam, they have access to more than 40 online and classroom-based continuing education courses. What’s more, courses completed during the NEIEP apprenticeship have been recognized as equivalent to college-level learning by a number of accredited colleges and universities who give college transfer credit to NEIEP graduates who want to earn associate and bachelor’s degrees in fields such as Construction Management, Project Management, Applied Sciences, Engineering Technology, Education, and more. This advanced training benefits every elevator constructor in the IUEC along with their colleagues, employers, building owners, and the riding public.

While Nate came into the elevator trade through the standard recruitment process, the IUEC also supports Veterans as they transition to a career in the elevator industry through a partnership with the national nonprofit organization Helmets to Hardhats. Helmets to Hardhats connects military service members with training and education programs in the building trades, providing veterans with career opportunities through federally-registered apprenticeship programs like the one offered by NEIEP. Through Helmets to Hardhats, IUEC Locals across the United States offer Veterans priority status during Apprenticeship recruitment.

In the video, Nate highlighted how the safety-focused, comprehensive classroom courses he completed during his NEIEP Apprenticeship prepared him to do his job well, keeping his customers and his company satisfied. His main point? That the practical, hands-on learning he participated in in the classroom prepared him with the skills he needed to challenge the demands of his work in the field. “You have to pay attention to what you’re learning because it applies to the real world,” he said.

Elevator constructor safety equipment

When working on elevators, escalators, or other types of conveyance equipment, safety must always be the number one priority. Most work-related injuries suffered by elevator technician/constructor mechanics and apprentices are caused by distractions, complacency, overconfidence, incomplete or improperly worn personal protective equipment (PPE), or a lack of safety training.

In an environment where work is done in confined spaces (including permit-required confined spaces), at elevated heights, or in close proximity to adjacent equipment, high voltages, and hazardous chemicals/materials, it’s essential that all PPE and items in your safety bag are checked and procedures and processes are reviewed before beginning any work on a job site or specific task.

Fall Protection

Elevator constructor safety equipmentThe Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) is comprised of three main pieces: an anchorage point, a body harness, and a lanyard. It is the standard mandatory PPE that elevator technician/constructor mechanics and apprentices must use whenever working where a fall of 4’ or greater (general industry) or 6’ or greater (construction) is possible. Always ensure you select appropriate engineered anchor points and use your lifeline or other anchoring devices in accordance with the instruction manual, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Regulations and Standards, and your company’s policies and procedures. Reading and understanding these documents could be the difference between life and death.

Of OSHA’s “Focus Four” – which details the four most common causes of worker fatalities on construction sites – falls account for 33.5% of worker mortalities, placing them first on the list when it comes to dangers in the workplace.  In 2021, OSHA ranked inadequate fall protection as the most common safety violation that led to injuries and fatalities.

Fall protection gear, along with safety nets and standard guardrails, can save your life. Be diligent and take time to inspect each piece of fall protection gear before starting any work on an elevator, escalator, or other types of conveyance equipment.

Eye and Face Protection

Eight of the top ten most frequently violated standards cited by OSHA involve inadequate or improperly worn eye or face protection. Elevator technicians/constructors must always have eye and face protective gear in their safety bags to protect against injuries from cutting, welding, dust, debris, or other objects.

Thousands of workers in the building trades are blinded each year; many of these injuries could have been prevented had the correct eye and face protection been worn. Always wear your safety glasses, goggles, face shields, and welding helmets (when required) to stay safe on the job.

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) / Test and Verify (Mechanical Energy)

Lockout/tagout (LOTO) and test and verify procedures ensure that the equipment that elevator technicians/constructors are working on is not energized and does not start up during maintenance, repair, or troubleshooting.  LOTO procedures protect workers from electrical energy as well as other types of stored energy. In the elevator industry, common LOTO procedures can include using pipe stands to support a column of oil holding up hydraulic equipment or using rope grippers on traction equipment. Unless you are working on a system that must remain energized during troubleshooting – and taking the precautions required by code and your elevator company’s safety policies in order to do so – you must always lockout, tagout, test, and verify your equipment to remove the stored electrical, mechanical, gravitational, hydraulic, or pneumatic energy that could put you at risk of serious injury or death.

Lockout devices include keyed or combination locks that when installed prevent pieces of equipment from starting or moving. Tagout devices are tags that are securely attached to the equipment to indicate that both the equipment and the energy-isolating device are inoperable, as well as provide contact information for the individual who locked out and tagged out the equipment. When a piece of elevator equipment has several isolation points, a group lockout box (sometimes called a LOTO box) or group lockout device must be used before it can be securely locked out.

In 2021, lack of control of hazardous energy placed seventh on OSHA’s list of its most frequently violated standards. According to the administration, the most common workplace injuries from LOTO misuse are electrocution, scalding, chemical burns, crushed limbs or digits, and amputations.

LOTO / Test and Verify (Electrical Energy)

When providing elevator services, elevator technicians/constructors often have to work with electricity. Electrocutions account for 8.5% of construction worker deaths and are number three on OSHA’s “Focus Four” list. Always make sure the equipment you are working on is grounded, and always lockout/tagout and test and verify any electrical equipment in accordance with OSHA Regulations and Standards, local, state, and national code requirements, and your company’s policies and procedures.

If you are installing or servicing AC/DC equipment, ensure that you are wearing OSHA-approved PPE to protect you from electrical hazards.

Safety Resources and Training

Before starting any elevator installation, modernization, repair, or maintenance procedures, always take an assessment of the workplace’s potential physical or health hazards and ensure that you and your coworkers know what needs to be done to minimize your risks. While it’s your employer’s responsibility to provide you with proper safety equipment, training, and PPE, you must know how and when to use it, and you must commit to using it correctly every time.

Through the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP) and the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC), members are provided with basic elevator constructor safety training that includes up-to-date OSHA-certified courses covering equipment, processes, and procedures they must be ready to apply on the job site. Safety training is one of the best benefits all elevator constructor mechanics and apprentices get from the IUEC, its union-affiliated employers, and NEIEP. (Employers are required to provide more comprehensive safety training.) OSHA’s general duty clause covers the requirements of the employer and employee.

To learn more about that, as well as union working conditions, elevator constructor retirement benefits, healthcare coverage, and annuity and 401(k) savings plans, head over to our hub of resources for elevator mechanics.

The National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP) recently joined members of the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 133 and staff from the Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund (EIWPF) in Austin, Texas, for an informational fair showcasing the industry’s most comprehensive education and training program for elevator technicians/constructors. NEIEP Development staff and Area Coordinators traveled from the program’s new, state-of-the-art Instructor Training Center in Warwick, Rhode Island and IUEC Locals from across the country to set up the event in the capital of the Lone Star State.

Along with having what one ElevatorInfo writer would argue is the best BBQ in the country, Austin is home to a number of industry stakeholders. Elected officials, company representatives and owners, building owners, contractors, and elevator constructors all visited the fair to learn about the education program and see demonstrations of NEIEP’s new and upcoming course materials for IUEC apprentices and mechanics. Through state-of-the-art classes held on-site in locations across the US – and online platforms IUEC members can access from their homes – NEIEP training gives IUEC elevator constructors the foundational and specialized skills they need to safely and efficiently build, modernize, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair complex pieces of conveyance machinery including elevators, escalators, moving walks, Automated People Movers, and more.

Between stops at each of the stations at the event, we had opportunities to speak with lawmakers interested in the value of USDOL-Registered Apprenticeship training, company representatives who employ the talented elevator constructors coming out of NEIEP, and individuals who help to make decisions as to which elevator contractor is the best fit for a particular project. We were also able to speak with three attendees who are currently working as elevator constructors in the field for TK Elevator.

Jarred Baker, Bobby Harper, and Pat Coker all traveled out to the NEIEP fair in Austin to meet Lester White, NEIEP’s Department Head of Development, and some of the talented subject matter experts who develop and implement the curriculum and hands-on lab materials featured in NEIEP’s new and upcoming training. All proud members of IUEC Local 133, the elevator constructors we spoke with shared with us how they valued their work, were enthusiastic about the industry as a whole, and wanted to show their support for the program that sets up IUEC members for safe, successful careers.

Jarred told us about the relationships he’s built with his IUEC brothers and sisters, emphasizing how the people he works with always look out for each other and always have each other’s backs. In a trade where elevator technicians/constructors routinely encounter a myriad of hazards on the job site, this is especially important. Bobby, a third-generation elevator constructor, agreed with Jarred and went on to share how important it is to be able to talk to others in the trade – people who know exactly what challenges elevator constructors face in their work with the complex equipment and systems they work with daily.

Both Jarred and Bobby touched on the impressive benefits package the IUEC provides to member elevator constructors.  When comparing the IUEC’s benefits packages to others, Pat described it as “the best in the country.” Through the National Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan, IUEC members and their families have access to a generous and comprehensive schedule of medical, prescription drug, mental health/substance abuse, dental, vision, and hearing benefits. Once an IUEC member is eligible for benefits under the Health Benefit Plan, full coverage is also extended to the member’s spouse and children with no additional premium costs.

In addition to providing an extensive health care coverage plan, the IUEC worked with employers to establish the Elevator Constructors Annuity and 401(k) Retirement Plan – one of the largest defined contribution multiemployer pension plans in the nation. This is in addition to the pension IUEC members receive through the Pension Plan and Social Security. With the National Elevator Industry Pension Plan – one of the largest defined benefit multiemployer pension plans in the US – as early as age 55, a member with 5 years of service can retire and begin receiving a monthly lifetime pension benefit from the Plan that cannot be reduced.

“This trade will provide you with a great future,” Pat added. “Sky’s the limit.”

To learn more about the benefits package IUEC elevator constructors receive, visit https://www.elevatorinfo.org/elevator-technicians