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