ElevatorInfo visited the Memorial Garden at International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, to speak with Mike Langer, IUEC Safety Director, and Eric McClaskey, IUEC Assistant Safety Director about the work the IUEC is doing to reduce injuries and fatalities in the conveyance industry. They told us about BE SAFE, a targeted strategy developed to address the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA)’s Construction Focus Four hazards.


According to OSHA, construction is one of the most dangerous industries in the country. Construction inspections make up a staggering 60% of all of the inspections OSHA performs each year. OSHA found that United States Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in the year 2009, there were 816 fatal on-the-job injuries to construction workers – comprising nearly one out of every five work-related deaths in the country. They also reported that the fatal occupational injury rate for private industry construction workers was close to triple that of all other US workers1. When OSHA dug deeper to identify the most common accidents in the construction industry, they discovered that injuries and fatalities resulting from four categories were at the top of the list: falls, caught-in-or-between, struck-by, and electrocution.

The IUEC Safety Director and Assistant Safety Director wanted to build on OSHA’s work by developing a safety-focused program tailored specifically to the needs of people who install, service, maintain, troubleshoot, repair, and inspect elevators, escalators, and other conveyance equipment. That’s why they launched the BE SAFE awareness campaign.

“BE SAFE is a phrase that we use when we’re saying goodbye to one another – hey brother, hey sister, be safe,” said Eric. “We took those words and we wanted to associate hazards within the industry as a reminder for mechanics and apprentices out in the field.”

The major hazards they identified for elevator constructors included the following:

  • Barricades – Are proper barricades in place?
  • Elevator location – Have you identified/verified the elevator’s location prior to entering the hoistway?
  • Struck by – Is overhead protection in place?
  • Adjacent car – Is adjacent car protection in place?
  • Fall protection – Are you using a Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) where fall hazards exist?
  • Electrical protection – Are you using electrical safe work practices?

“BE SAFE really brings everything together for our safety culture, because within BE SAFE we have the OSHA Focus Four hazards where we see most of the injuries and fatalities in the industry – so we’re really trying to build upon that within (the IUEC) safety committee, local safety committees, and even within our alliance with OSHA,” continued Eric.

“If we keep talking about it, drilling it home every time we have an opportunity, creating the stickers that you can put on a wall, or a hard hat, or a door – it’s bringing home the awareness of safety,” said Mike.

When ElevatorInfo interviewed IUEC President Frank Christensen a while back, he emphasized how developing a culture of safety that allows all elevator constructor apprentices and mechanics to get home safe to their families at the end of the workday has been a major priority since the beginning of his time as president. “It never is going to be enough for me until we don’t have any fatalities. Never. No injuries is probably a dream or fantasy. But that’s my goal as long as I’m going to be the General President,” he said.

The best way for someone coming into the elevator trade to establish a solid foundation of safe work practices begins with the hands-on safety training students receive in the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP) classrooms during their elevator constructor apprenticeship (and the continuing education courses that are offered to mechanics who have completed their apprenticeship). This is an important distinction that sets a NEIEP education apart from some of the other training programs in the conveyance industry, which are limited in scope and offered via correspondence course with no opportunity for hands-on learning.

Through NEIEP and the IUEC, elevator constructor apprentices and mechanics receive basic elevator constructor safety training including OSHA certification courses covering equipment, processes, and procedures they need to know to work safe (employers are required to provide more comprehensive safety training.). This safety training is one of the most important benefits members get from the IUEC and its union-affiliated employers.

For more information about the BE SAFE campaign and other ways the IUEC is working to improve safety for people who work in the elevator industry, check out the March 2023 issue of the Elevator Constructor magazine (a monthly industry publication sent to all active and retired members of the IUEC) for an in-depth article on the topic. Also, browse our article on the fundamentals of safety for elevator technicians and constructors.


1Source: OSHA Construction Focus Four: Outreach Training Packet Module Training Materials 

Nathaniel James is a former Marine and a third-year elevator mechanic apprentice with TK Elevator at the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 10. He came to the elevator trade through the partnership between the IUEC and the Helmets to Hardhats program, which connects transitioning military service members with quality career training and employment opportunities within the construction industry.

A Stable Career Path

Nathaniel served in the Marine Corps from 2008 to 2012 as a crash-fire rescue operator, and after completing his military service, he worked for seven years as an ironworker. Friends from other building trades introduced him to IUEC Local 10 and told him about the elevator trade and the Helmets to Hardhats program. From there, Nathaniel was able to connect with an Area Coordinator from the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP) – the conveyance industry’s most comprehensive USDOL-registered apprenticeship training program – who gave him an understanding of the Helmets to Hardhats program and its benefits, facilitating his transition from an ironworker to an apprentice elevator mechanic.

Today, Nathaniel is a part of the modernization department at TK Elevator, where he works on fabricating and retrofitting elevator systems. His role involves dismantling old systems and rebuilding new ones from scratch. The skills he acquired throughout his military career and his time as an ironworker have been instrumental in helping him excel in his role, allowing him to make a smooth transition to a career in the civilian sector.

As an IUEC elevator apprentice coming into the trade, Nathaniel was enrolled in the industry’s four-plus year USDOL-Registered Apprenticeship program at the time he started working in the field. Through classroom courses, hands-on experiential learning, and online virtual simulations, the NEIEP curriculum provides apprentices like Nathaniel with the theoretical foundations and practical skills they need to become the most highly-skilled elevator constructors in the conveyance world. Along with what he’s learning in the classroom, Nathaniel is working under the supervision of an experienced IUEC mechanic. Once he completes his classroom courses, logs all of his required on-the-job learning hours, and passes NEIEP’s rigorous capstone Mechanic Exam, he’ll advance to mechanic status. As a third-year apprentice, he still has some time to go – but his background as both an ironworker and a crash-fire rescue operator in the Marine Corps has given his career an advantageous start.

Through this ongoing partnership with Helmets to Hardhats, the IUEC is able to provide veterans a stable career path with great benefits and instill in them a sense of accomplishment Nathaniel describes as akin to what he felt during his military service. Just as he once protected the citizens of his nation, he now ensures their safe and efficient vertical transportation in city buildings.

It’s About Building Legacies

Nathaniel can point to almost any building in the city and say he’s worked on it, touched it, and left a tangible imprint of his hard work. This sense of contribution and legacy, of knowing he played a part in constructing the cityscape, is invaluable.

Through this partnership, the IUEC and Helmets to Hardhats have helped Nathaniel and many other individuals with military backgrounds transition into new careers in the building trades. It’s not just the elevator industry – bricklayers, boilermakers, carpenters, electrical workers, insulators, ironworkers, laborers, millwrights, operating engineers, painters and finishers, plasterers and cement masons, plumbers and pipefitters, roofers, sheet metal workers, teamsters, and construction managers – all of these trades have built similar partnerships with Helmets to Hardhats today. What’s the advantage for them to reach out to a program like this and bring more veterans into their workforce? It’s because individuals who have served in the country’s armed forces bring unique skills, perspectives, and a sense of duty that translates into their trade work. While the IUEC – Helmets to Hardhats collaboration offers veterans meaningful careers, at the same time, it enriches the elevator construction industry with their expertise and commitment.

Nathaniel James’ journey from Marine to ironworker to IUEC elevator constructor apprentice underscores the valuable opportunities provided by the Helmets to Hardhats program. It’s a testament to the power of industry-military partnerships in facilitating smooth transitions into civilian life and pathways to rewarding careers for service members. The IUEC’s partnership with Helmets to Hardhats is not just about job creation, but about building legacies.

Want to learn more about joining the IUEC? Get in touch with ElevatorInfo today and learn more.