When we talk with organized elevator apprentices and mechanics, a topic that comes up again and again is how the education they receive through the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP) – and the culture of safety the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) works to instill throughout the trade – helps them come into the elevator industry with the skills and knowledge they need to keep themselves and their jobsites safe.
Whether someone is coming in to the IUEC as an organized apprentice or through the recruitment process completely new to the trade, the IUEC apprenticeship begins with a safety-focused curriculum centered around recognizing trade-related hazards. From the industry-specific OSHA curriculum that recently launched; to classroom lab activities where apprentices practice putting on required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as eye protection, hearing protection, respiratory protection, and fall protection; to the American Heart Association’s Heartsaver First Aid and CPR certification program embedded in the required curriculum, they receive a very different and much more thorough education than they did while working for non-union companies.
So with a trade that advances as quickly as this one, how does the IUEC stay on top of industry trends and emerging technologies that could impact the safety of apprentices and mechanics on the job? One way is through the establishment of the IUEC Safety Committee.
“The IUEC Safety Committee is a committee set up by President Christensen going back about ten years ago,” said Mike Langer, Director of Safety for the IUEC. “It takes people from across North America and puts them together in a room for brainstorming sessions on how to reduce fatalities and injuries in the elevator industry or the conveyance industry.”
Mike has been a longtime member of the IUEC Safety Committee, which is chaired by Ed Christensen, IUEC Regional Director for the Midcentral United States. Other Safety Committee members include Eric McClaskey, IUEC Assistant Director of Safety; Dave Griefenhagen, IUEC Director of Codes and Standards; Pat McGarvey, IUEC Director of Organizing; Blair MacMillan, IUEC National Organizer and Canadian Safety Director; and Ben McIntyre, IUEC National Organizer and Canadian Safety Director – along with active and retired elevator inspectors and building inspectors from across the United States and Canada. Altogether, the committee has approximately 22 members.
Eric McClaskey told us that the overall purpose of the IUEC Safety Committee is to improve safety for everyone working in the trade. This begins with research. “We look at incidents that occur throughout the course of a year or half-year when we meet annually,” he said. “We try to focus on ways in which we can better the industry through code development and other safety enhancements. It’s really an opportunity for us throughout North America to get with one another, and talk about what we see on the job and how we can prevent injuries and fatalities.”
One of the most important sources of information the Safety Committee draws on for its work is the database of incident reports put together by the IUEC Safety Department. Any time there is a close call, injury, fatality, or accident in the trade, it is investigated and an incident summary is produced. These incident summaries are then reviewed and discussed so that the IUEC Safety Committee can make recommendations based on what was learned from the accident. The reports are shared with IUEC Locals and affiliated signatory employers, and posted on the safety page of the union’s website at iuec.org. “The bottom line is, we want to do our best to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” says Mike Langer.
Eric McClaskey encouraged everyone concerned about safety in the elevator industry to visit the IUEC’s website and view these reports. “On the IUEC safety page, we have an alerts tab that you can click on – it’s open to anyone,” he said. “It’s a resource for local unions, our employers, and the public at large. We house those incident summaries and (information about) close calls, near misses, and injuries on our website so that hopefully the industry can learn from these events that have taken place.”
Mike Langer emphasized the importance of making this information and research public. “Anybody can go to that open website and gather safety information right down to OSHA training from the safety page. It can be anybody in the conveyance industry, whether they’re union or not. That’s really what it’s all about – protecting everybody who’s doing the same work we do.”
Eric McClaskey continued, “(Elevators and escalators are) the most common form of transportation that the public operates on their own, so it’s important for us to make sure that these conveyances are installed and maintained properly. For us as a committee, we focus on items that may affect the end-user, and what we can do to help make sure the public has a safe conveyance to get from place to place.”
To learn more about the work the IUEC is doing to reduce injuries and fatalities in the conveyance industry, visit https://www.elevatorinfo.org/be-safe-improving-safety-elevator-industry/.