Fairfax, VA – Two of six national awards for safety made by a national sheet metal industry safety trust have come to St. Louis: to Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 safety instructor Ed Hoganson and C&R Mechanical Contractors, one of St. Louis’ premier design-build mechanical contractor and engineering firms.
The Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT) recognizes contractors, training centers and individuals annually who initiate safety training programs and provide overall safety education to their workers and students.
Local 36’s Hoganson was cited for his work on improving the use of fall arrest equipment and implementing a safety program to correct the misuse. Contractors were concerned that too many injuries were happening because of improper use of the equipment.
Hoganson put together a class to emphasize the correct usage and was able to address the workers’ specific concerns and circumstances, explain to them how to fix the problem and teach them how to keep it from happening again.
This is only one example of Hoganson’s attention to safety, said Billy Crow, also an instructor at Local 36’s training center.
“Our contractors look to him for added safety knowledge. The contractors also have called on Ed to hold special refresher classes just for their workers to give them all the newest updates on the job,” Crow said.
Hoganson also developed the 30-hour OSHA and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) programs at the training center that ALL Local 36 members are required to pass.
“He is one of the most knowledgeable people I know on safety, and he is very willing to share his knowledge with surrounding locals,” Crow added.
Hoganson also teaches OSHA 500, 502 and 510 courses in Las Vegas with instructors from the International Training Institute for the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Industry.
C&R’s program involved a unique study with Washington University to first study work injuries over the past eight years and second, determine how sheet metal workers actually perform many on-site tasks and then develop equipment and work processes to prevent repetitive injuries that are prevalent in an older workforce, said C&R Chairman/CEO George Edinger.
Washington University went on C&R worksites twice a week for eight months, often in temperatures nearing zero, to observe sheet metal workers as they performed various tasks. Then during lunch hours would talk with the men and ask them fill out questionnaires, which 80 percent did.
While final results of the combined study aren’t expected for another six months, C&R and Local 36 obtained valuable data and incorporated new safety procedures on the job-site and in the company and union training programs.
“Experienced guys on the job don’t see the hazards they subject themselves to while they are doing work ‘the old ways,’” said C&R Safety Instructor Fritz Hoffmeister. “The more we can bring safety issues to them and make it top-of-mind awareness, the more they begin to see the benefits and change their old habits.”
Hoffmeister incorporated the new knowledge learned from the program into the firm’s weekly Tool Box Talk program that covers many safety-related topics, especially ergonomic issues. Using a skeleton, he was able to show how improper lifting, bending and twisting with heavy loads impacts the spine causing muscular skeletal disease. As a result, the men began to change their work processes.
“Our guys learned a lot from the study program and impacted the way they work overhead and on the ground,” he added.
“Safety training has had a major impact on our company,” Edinger said. “Safe work habits means less injuries on the job for our men and that in turn means greater productivity,” Edinger stressed.
“Workers’ comp payments for injuries can’t feed a family, so safety is to the benefit of our employees and their families,” he noted, adding “and it’s a benefit to our customers in terms of getting the job done on time and budget and to C&R in terms of lower insurance and a 30 percent savings on workers comp costs. Everyone benefits from safety.”
“Our men appreciate a company that cares, and we certainly do care about our employees and what they think,” he added with pride.
SUGGESTION PAID OFF
An example of that was the development of a piece of equipment in the shop that also solved many ergonomic problems the men were having with repetitive bending.
To put smaller ductwork together using a corner angle a worker had to bend over and hammer the angle in place, putting constant pressure on the back.
At the suggestion of several C&R Local 36 members, and then working with Engel Industries, a nationally-recognized leading supplier of quality metal forming equipment, C&R helped fund research on a new piece of equipment that raises the ductwork to waist height and allows a machine to insert the connecting corner angle, totally eliminating the need for constant bending, hammering and lifting.
Edinger complimented the cooperation his company and the industry gets from Local 36 to ensure safe working practices.
“When we see a dangerous practice on the job, we let Local 36 know about it and they work with us to correct the problem, and then incorporate any new procedures into their training programs for everyone.”
“It’s a no-brainer for us,” said Local 36 President David Zimmermann. “We want our guys to be able to go home to their families every day, so we focus on safety every day.”
He noted proudly that Local 36 was among the first, if not THE first sheet metal local in the U.S. to require every member to pass the mandatory 30-hour OSHA training program.
“When our men work safely, they benefit themselves and provide a better service to our customers by being more
productive and able to provide the quality work our union contractors are noted for and the public has a right to expect,” Zimmermann said.
The other SMOHIT honorees were: Sheet Metal Workers instructors from San Diego’s Local 206 Roger Fewkes and Racine, Wisconsin’s Local 18’s Kurt Christiansen; Reno, Nev. RHP Mechanical Systems and Cleveland Local 33’s Training Center.