In the middle of the night on December 21, 2022, Local #10 member Kelly Catterton and his family were asleep in their home in Mechanicsville, MD. After finishing a long shift working on elevator modernizations as a mechanic for Action Elevator, it had been an evening like any other.

“My one-year-old was sleeping in his crib, my four-year-old was in his room, my wife had gone to bed,” Kelly said. “I just happened to fall asleep on the couch. And then around 12:30-1:00, I woke up because I smelled something burning. I thought I left something in the oven.” He ran into the kitchen and pulled the oven open, but found the stove was off. “And then I opened the door to the garage – it was like an inferno in there. I ran back to the bedrooms, grabbed my kids and my wife and got everyone outside. Once I knew everyone was safe, I went back in to grab the car keys because it was 18 degrees and we were all out there in t-shirts and pajamas.”

Within minutes, Kelly’s house was completely engulfed in flames. Amazingly, everyone in his family had escaped unharmed. But with only four days before Christmas, two small children, and another baby on the way in a few short months, it was just about the worst time for a tragedy like this to happen.

A few hours later, Charmain Colicchio, Office Manager from Local 10, received a call from a retired member with the news. “My immediate thought was – what can I do, how can I help right now. It was like my own family at that point.”

Charmain reached out to EIWPF National Coordinator and longtime Local 10 member Matt Rusch. Having served as a volunteer firefighter for Queenstown and Solomons Fire Departments for close to 30 years, Matt had an idea of what the family would need in the aftermath. And having been Kelly’s teacher when he was an apprentice in the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP), he was especially concerned about the family.

Matt and Charmain got right to work coordinating donations of clothing, shoes, diapers, coats – anything they could think of that could help. They also set up a GoFundMe so that the family could have access to funds to meet their immediate needs quickly. Once it was ready, it was shared widely on Facebook and other online platforms. Within four days, 165 people from all across the country contributed and raised over $17,000. “All of the members came together. We even received donations from folks who had been laid off,” said Charmain.

It wasn’t just the people in Local 10’s jurisdiction who contributed. Friends and family members set up additional GoFundMe accounts. And the membership of Local 5 in Philadelphia sent an additional check for $5,000. Kelly was floored by the generosity of his IUEC brothers and sisters. “I don’t know anyone in Local 5. I’ve never even been there.” he said.

Business Manager John O’Connor reached out to IUEC Regional Director Jim Chapman, who had worked in the past with Michelle Maxia at the Toy Box Connection, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that provides toys and emergency supplies for children and families in need – including those who have been affected by fires, floods, tornadoes, and other disasters. Receiving a request for help so close to Christmas – their busiest time of year – may have fazed other organizations, but with Michelle at the helm, they jumped into action and sent a truckload of donations all the way to Mechanicsville, MD the next day.

Members of Local 10 had also loaded up a truck with more clothing, household goods, and Christmas gifts for Kelly and his family. And to the delight of the children, when they arrived, Matt Rusch had dressed up as Santa Claus to deliver them. “We wanted the kids to know that wherever they were, Santa could find them,” said Charmain. “We didn’t want them to worry about Santa not knowing where to bring their gifts on Christmas.”

While it will take a long time for Kelly and his family to rebuild their house, he emphasized over and over how thankful he was for the support of his IUEC brothers and sisters. “In the relatively short time I’ve been in the IUEC, I’ve made lifelong friends. There are some really good people here,” he said. “Five years ago, before I worked in the elevator trade, I used to paint cars. I hate to think where I’d be right now if I hadn’t become an elevator constructor. This is a great trade – it’s very rewarding if you put in the effort and are willing to learn. Wherever I go, if I’m wearing a union shirt, people come up to me – we take care of each other.”

For more information, visit IUEC Local 10’s website.

Colonel David Sutherland, Chairman of Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services and Chris Gardner, author of “The Pursuit of Happyness,” joined the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

IUEC General President Frank Christensen along with Brothers Abel Arabitg, Steve Simpson, and more than 20 friends and family members attended the event. The solemn ceremony connected leaders from the IUEC with representatives from Dixon Center whose actions are leading veterans to a better and more secure future.

President Christensen has been a strong advocate for veterans and a supporter of Dixon Center’s work for many years. Because he has many family members who served, he understands the importance of taking care of veterans who fought for the rights and liberties we enjoy today. In an interview, he mentioned, “My father served in WWII, in the Navy…I had six uncles that served in WWII; my brother also served, and I got the chance to see that veterans aren’t taken care of in this country as they should [be]. I believe so much in our veterans today, and we owe them everything – our freedoms and everything we have today.”

Helmets to Hardhats Partnership

Through a partnership with Helmets to Hardhats, a national non-profit program, the IUEC offers veterans priority status during the apprenticeship’s recruitment process.

Helmets to Hardhats connects military service members with superior training and education programs in the building trades. It provides veterans with solid, family-wage career opportunities through federally-registered apprenticeship programs, such as the IUEC’s National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP).

Frank Christensen also shares a strong friendship with Dixon Center Chairman Col. David Sutherland.  Col. Sutherland says, “We embrace the opportunities that the IUEC is creating for veterans in the building trades. Now, we showcase the way you do it to other organizations. Don’t create a new program; integrate them in – recruit and train them – the way [the IUEC] does it with the Apprenticeship Programs, and retain them. They feel appreciated, they feel connected, and they know they’ve got opportunities to advance; and not just them, but also their families.”

A Day Well Spent

The day was spent walking through the grounds, visiting gravesites, and sharing stories of those who served. All who participated hope events like this will not only pay homage to the memories of veterans and their families, but also aid in linking past experiences to the present day feelings and behavior, ultimately shaping the development of leaders who learn from the lives and experiences of others.

ElevatorInfo recently covered a great collaboration between International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 4 Boston and Building Pathways – a non-profit organization based in Boston, MA with a mission to increase the number of diverse workers in the building trades workforce. Together they work on recruitment, retention, and advancement of under-represented groups in the building trades.

In their blog, ElevatorInfo interviews Desalia Gomes, a first-year apprentice at IUEC Local 4 who got her start through a pre-apprenticeship program with Building Pathways. She shares her story on how she got started in the elevator industry, the education and training she was provided access to and opportunities she sees in the elevator industry to further her career and skills.

For the full story and the video, check out ElevatorInfo’s blog.

 

In a major shift toward improving safety in the Elevator Industry, an agreement was signed to renew an Alliance between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of US Department of Labor (OSHA) and the Elevator Industry Safety Partners (EISP).

 

OSHA’S Alliances provide organizations (in this case the entire elevator industry) an opportunity to participate in a voluntary cooperative relationship with OSHA for purposes such as raising awareness of OSHA’S initiatives, outreach, communication, training, and education.

 

Check out the latest Alliance Agreement here  and see how OSHA and the EISP are working together with a common goal to make the elevator industry safer for all workers.

Every year on April 28th IUEC, EIWPF and employers in the Elevator Industry hold safety meetings, toolbox talks, and send out safety messages to promote a safer workplace for all workers. This event is called Safety Stand Down Day and it happens on the same day as Workers Memorial Day in the United States and the National Day of Mourning in Canada.

For the first time, IUEC’s working contract now includes an additional safety article thanks to the collaborative efforts of both employers and the IUEC Labor Committee. The newly added article further protects men and women working on the elevators, escalators, and other moving conveyances, ensuring a safer working environment for members in the industry.

We encourage you to visit the IUEC Safety Page to access links for Life After Loss Videos, OSHA’s National Stand Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, and other useful tools as the industry Stands Down for Safety.

Please take a moment to listen to an important safety message from your IUEC General President Frank Christensen by calling 1-888-618-0613 (toll free in the U.S. and Canada).

Remember, we came to this industry for a better life – not a shorter one.

The following article was written by Justin Ganschow, business development manager with Caterpillar Safety Services in Peoria, Illinois.  Justin is a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) and Certified Safety Professional (CSP) with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science—Biology and a Master of Science in Biology from Bradley University. This article is being reprinted with permission from Caterpillar.

 

Q&A with safety expert Justin Ganschow on why employee safety behavior at home matters

The safest jobsites are those that have a strong safety culture – where safety isn’t just a set of rules or the managers’ job – it’s everyone’s job and just part of how the work gets done.

But what about when those employees go home? With 90% of medically consulted injuries occurring off the job, building a safety culture at home is just as important.

We spoke with Justin Ganschow of Caterpillar Safety Services. His team works with businesses to provide safety assessments, workshops, training programs, consulting, and coaching. Read our Q&A for more on building a safety culture at home:

 

  1. In your work, you help businesses grow their safety programs beyond the basics to a true workplace safety culture. Can you define safety culture for us in layman’s terms? Why is it important at work, and how can it apply at home?

    Culture is how we do things. It’s a collection of shared beliefs and practices. In terms of safety culture, it’s how we do the work when nobody’s watching—the tools we use, the methods we use to get the work done.

    When we’re at work, there’s a safety net because people are watching. But outside of work, either no one is watching, or people don’t think it’s their job to say anything about safety. So it’s all on us to make the safe choices.

  2. Do you find that people who work in safety-conscious industries are naturally more safety conscious at home?  Does the safety focus transfer automatically?

    It should transfer automatically—it should become a habit, but that’s not always the case.

    A few years ago, I was on a work trip speaking with a heavy equipment maintenance company’s safety manager. He told me he doesn’t do all this safety stuff at home because that’s what he has to do at work. I was baffled. This was the safety manager! He didn’t make the connection that the hazards at home are just as dangerous, or more so, than at work.

    If we make safety solely about rules and policies without understanding why we take precautions (what’s at stake if we get hurt), then we’re missing the point and missing the opportunity to make a real impact.

  3. When people are overly familiar with a situation or task, they start ignoring safety red flags. How can people break the routine and be more safety conscious?

    We see this a lot because it’s how the brain works. The first time you do something you spend more time preparing and thinking consciously about it. But the more times you do it, you think about it less and it becomes automatic. Your brain conserves energy this way. The hazard hasn’t changed, but our conscious focus on it has.

    The best way to go off autopilot is by stopping and thinking about the task before you get started. Many of our customers do this before they start every shift. The next time you’re about to start a routine task, think about:

    How you’re going to do the work

    • What’s at stake if something goes wrong
    • How you can consciously mitigate the risks

    Routinely thinking through your work before, during, and after will help break that unconscious cycle.

  4. You describe a safety culture as what people do when no one is watching. That’s a concern of many parents—what are my kids doing when I’m not there? What’s the best way parents can have peace of mind that their kids are being safe?

    As parents, I don’t know that we’ll ever stop worrying about our children’s safety, but we can do our best to set them up for success. In addition to modeling safe behavior, it’s also important to teach them good habits they can develop to protect themselves. You can read our “How to Talk to Kids About Safety” article for specific tips.

  5. As an expert in safety, what have you done to build a safety culture at home? Do you have any examples from ­others you’d like to share?

    I grew up on a farm and we never talked about safety. When I got out on my own, I continued taking all kinds of risks and shortcuts. Besides a few broken bones, stiches and scars, I luckily made it through intact. But there were a few close calls that still shake me up to this day.

    I don’t want to see bad things happen to anyone else, which is why I’m doing this job today. And I’ve learned to be ­prepared:

    • I’ve invested in buying the right tools for whatever job I’m doing so I don’t take shortcuts.
    • Instead of diving into a complex task or project like I used to, I research it ahead of time to know what I’m getting into.
    • When I’ve gone to help friends cut firewood, I’ve taken a bag of safety glasses, gloves and hearing protection in casethey didn’t bring any.
    • I’ve put fire extinguishers in the house and vehicles.
    • When backpacking and hunting, I carry a first aid kit and twice the amount of water I think we’ll need, just in case.

    While we don’t like to think about what could go wrong, it’s critical that we do and then prepare for how to mitigate or address it if it does.

  6. Being prepared is something you’ve talked a lot about. What’s the best way to prepare for emergencies at home?

    While they’re rare occurrences, emergency situations can be life-altering for your family. It’s important to be ready with resources and a plan. We have a section on cat.com dedicated to disaster preparedness, including an emergency supply shopping list and tips for evacuating your home during fires and hurricanes. There’s also great resources available at sites like the American Red Cross and Ready.gov.

  7. What would you say to people who say “formal safety processes are good for jobsites, but they’re overkill for home” or people who feel awkward talking about safety at home?  How do you make the safety stuff feel normal?

    Home feels like it should be the safest place on earth. And it can be. But it requires us to plan for safety and act accordingly. If you’re working at heights from a ladder, using power tools or chemicals, grilling, or doing landscaping, the hazards may be just as serious, or even more so, than at work. If you’re not proactively safe on the weekend, you may not make it to the job again on Monday.

    To me, off-the-job safety is just as critical as safety on the job. To make it “normal,” you have to make it a routine. And to make it a routine, you have to start. And it should be a positive experience.

    Start simple and do something small:

    • Buy a comfortable set of safety glasses and hearing protection for mowing the lawn.
    • Splurge and get some noise-canceling headphones.
    • Start catching your family members doing something safe and recognize them for it. You don’t have to make it weird. Just share why it matters to you and that you appreciate it. With consistency, it becomes the norm.
  8. You’ve given a lot of great safety tips today. What’s the biggest takeaway for people when it comes to building a ­safety culture at home?

    Know that building a culture of safety, whether at work or at home, is a continuous improvement journey. You don’t have to have it all figured out from the start. But you have to start. Safety can be simple, but you have to think and turn your intentions into action.

 

In early April, hundreds of delegates representing the more than 31,000 members of the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) gathered to review, debate, and ultimately vote on a new collective bargaining agreement between IUEC and employers throughout USA represented by two organizations – National Elevator Bargaining Association (NEBA) and The Elevator Contractors of America (ECA). Traveling to the nation’s capital from across the country, the majority of delegates believed the new contract’s terms and conditions justly established IUEC members’ terms of employment and, thus, supported the new contract.

Once the contract had been successfully ratified, IUEC General President Frank Christensen released a statement reflecting on the ratification. In his statement, GP Christensen touts contract provisions such as increased wages, robust healthcare and retirement benefits, and the establishment of a first-ever labor-management safety committee. The union leader recognizes the value of strong partnerships between labor and management, and also stresses the importance of working with contractor partners to address pertinent safety issues.

Read the full statement below:

“Delegates from coast to coast came together and got the job done. With increased wages and a strong benefits package, the new contract is a victory for our union, our members, and our members’ families – supporting it was a no-brainer. What’s more, the contract increases funding to advance industry safety initiatives, as well as grow market share.

“Two things matter most to me – ensuring my brothers and sisters are taken care of from a pay and benefits standpoint and keeping them safe on the job. While lucrative and fulfilling, a career in the elevator trade is an innately dangerous job. From falls to electrical hazards, so much can, and unfortunately does, sometimes go wrong. That’s why, as part of the new agreement, there was a renewed commitment to continuing education and safety, including the formation of a first-ever labor-management safety committee.

“The organized elevator industry recognizes the importance of collaborating with contractor partners to effectively identify and address both general construction and industry-specific safety issues. The reality is this: For the elevator industry to be a safer one, a strong partnership must exist between labor and management. Together, we can and will do everything in our power to see that, at the end of the day, all workers go home safely.”

The men and women who work on elevators every day understand the risks associated with the pit ladder. Elevator Industry Work Preservation Fund National Coordinator Scott Russell recognized the hazards associated with pit ladders and had an idea to improve safety– an idea that could make a real, industry-wide difference.

Russell brought his idea to industry leaders and experts, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Working together with other elevator industry experts, the team came up with multiple ways to automatically shut off the elevator if someone is on the pit ladder. Better yet, this wasn’t another process. It wouldn’t add stress on any worker. The solution included simple, straightforward components such as adding pressure sensors to ladder rungs. The new solution is automated – a smarter pit ladder that could ultimately save lives and make the elevator industry a safer place.

Working in the elevator industry is tough. Improving safety for the riding public and elevator mechanics should always be a top priority. In that regard, Russell’s invention is a cost-effective measure that is easy to implement and will make an immediate impact in improving safety. Take a moment to check out Russell’s vision coming to life in the following video.

Meet Steve Comley, the curator of the Elevator Museum, and his father James, Owner of Embree Elevator Company. These elevator mechanics have over 110 years of experience combined and it shows in the clip below.

With more than 8 decades of combined experience in the elevator industry, industry safety leaders Mike Langer and Randy Storr share a powerful safety message regarding the importance of starting the new year off right by working smarter and safer.