Sheet metal workers prove safety is first during Safety Champion Awards

Local 80 members, H.M. White employees, save co-worker due to CPR training

FAIRFAX, Va. –  The Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT), the safety arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry, recently gave out its 2018 Safety Champion Awards to those in the industry who exemplified a safety culture.

Just over two years ago, Kevin Koslowski collapsed at H.M. White’s fabrication shop in Detroit. Lucky for him, his friends and fellow co-workers had been trained in CPR and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED).

“He wasn’t passed out,” said John Frech, who provided CPR. “He was dead.”

The near victim of a “widow maker” heart attack, Koslowski, 45, had only been at work for 10 minutes, and due to not feeling well that morning, came in to work anyway. Had he stayed home, he likely would not have survived.

While Frech provided CPR, Jay Jaszewski fetched and applied the AED while Joe Floyd made sure dispatch knew where paramedics could find them.

They had the training and tools to save his life, because in 2001, Chris Hulbert, president of H.M.White, got the idea to add AEDs to the fabrication shop when his father bought one for the family’s lake cabin. Two years later, his boss had a heart attack in the office and died because the only person in the office didn’t know how to use it.

“I lost my boss, and it hit me like a ton of bricks,” Hulbert said. “What good is a tool without training?”

Two weeks before Koslowski collapsed, 17 of his co-workers completed a standing room-only, CPR and AED training. It’s something Hulbert and all his employees take seriously. Today, AEDs are located at multiple locations throughout the campus for easy access and are included with every jobsite trailer — an addition since the Koslowski incident.

“Safety is at the top of the pyramid, but pyramids have broad shoulders,” Hulbert said. “Training, tools and technology are keys in our shops for safety and productivity. It’s stuff you thought you would never use until it happens and a guy falls.”

It took over two years for Hulbert to watch the security camera footage of his employees saving Koslowski’s life — and Koslowski still won’t watch it — but it’s important to see if only to imagine what could have happened.

Hulbert said: “It was a good reaction by everybody.”

“This is a prime example of how working together pays off,” said Randall Krocka, SMOHIT administrator.

The heroes of H.M. White, along with nine others accepted their 2018 SMOHIT Safety Champion Awards during a ceremony on Feb. 25 in Scottsdale, Arizona. They included:

Ralph Natale, director of safety and health at McKamish and chairman of SMACNA’s safety committee, is a proponent of safe work environments and never hesitates to offer his assistance to those who need it.

Jeff King, apprentice instructor at Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 33 in Toledo, Ohio, has served as the safety director for VM Systems for five years. He has taken steps to change the safety culture at the company, and since coming on board, its RIR went from 9.21 to 0 in 2015 and currently stands at .89. King also attended SMART Members Assistance Program (MAP) training to help keep members safe outside the workplace.

“It was always tough when a safety professional would come up to you and say, ‘I don’t care how you do it, just get it done the right way.’ It was such frustration as a worker to say, ‘Hey, show me how you want that done.’ A lot of times — and it’s changed in the last few years — they couldn’t show you,” King said. “Workers are just looking for direction to do it the right way, and that is what I try to give them.”

Nicholas Dadig, safety manager for DMI Companies, helped a team of safety-minded individuals make a large dent in safety statistics at the company, bringing lost days from 323 to 119 with an incurred cost of $250,000 decreased to $63,000. Safety information is provided to employees on a monthly basis, and a safety committee was formed to lead major projects.

John Santivasci Jr., director of safety and risk at CMC Sheet Metal, attended a SMART MAP training in Pittsburgh and quickly figured out he knew nothing about addiction and abuse. People he met during the training educated him and opened his eyes to what was going on around him. It lead Santivasci to attend more trainings, and he eventually administered Narcan, the opioid overdose antidote, to a man near his hometown, saving his life.

“I have to thank SMOHIT for giving me that training, because there is a guy alive right now in Capitol Heights, Maryland, who would not be alive had they not taught me this training,” Santivasci said. “And I thank them very much for that.”

Kevin Young is a safety director at A.O. Reed & Company, one of California’s largest full-service mechanical contractors and one of the top 40 mechanical contractors in the country. Even with more than 500 employees, the company has a stellar safety history. The company, with Young’s help, constantly pursues the highest safety standards to ensure all employees go home to their families.

David Larkin, safety manager, and Paul Lopez, construction manager for Limbach, spoke about the company’s Hearts and Minds Safety Program, which engages employees in order to foster a safety culture at work and at home. The rebrand of the safety program across all United States branches has helped workers identify with and take ownership of their safety.

“You’ve got to engage your heart. You’ve got to engage your mind,” Larkin said. “It’s not just about rules and beating people down. We want to engage people, and it does take your heart and your mind to activate it.”

Larry Kinnon Jr., sheet metal shop superintendent at McKenney’s Inc., fosters a strong safety culture for sheet metal workers that is rooted in the company’s motto to “move safely forward.” With signs posted throughout the shop, safe operating procedures attached to every piece of equipment and empowering workers to report unsafe practices or risky behavior, Kinnon helps to increase efficiency while promoting that safety is the most important tool.

Don Steltz, training administrator for Western Washington Sheet Metal Local 66, sat down with project managers, supervisors and contractors to see what they needed, and overwhelming the request was for apprentices to earn their OSHA 30 certification earlier in their education. Today, all first-year apprentices earn their OSHA 30 and more than 400 apprentices also have attended asbestos awareness training.

“When I moved from the East Coast to the West Coast, things were different,” Steltz said. “But safety has no boundaries.”

Dominic Caminiti, director of loss control and workforce development for University Mechanical, said molding apprentices into the safe workers they want them to be helps provide a safer future. The company has worked more than 8.8 million hours without a lost time incident since 2005; spotted, corrected and reported more than 5,000 traps in work areas; and has had more than 2,500 documented coach and correct sessions since 2007.

“We bring people in as apprentices, bring them up in our culture and then turn them out as journeymen for us,” Caminiti said. “By then, they’ve already grown up in that culture. It’s just worked really well for us. Treat these people who come to work for us like a loved one. When you frame it that way, and you get folks to understand you really care about them, it becomes a lot easier.”

The Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT) was founded in 1986 to address the impact of decades-long asbestos exposure on those working in the sheet metal industry. To date, more than 55,000 sheet metal workers have been screened as part of its ongoing Asbestos Screening Program.

SMOHIT has since expanded its mission to operate on four separate but related tracks: monitoring and documenting the health of sheet metal workers as it relates to workplace exposures and hazards; providing safety information and training related to best safety practices on and off the job; acting as an aggressive advocate for the health and safety of its members with government and through likeminded allied organizations; and providing diet and exercise information to address the health and wellness of its members.

SMOHIT has adjusted its methods and messages to reflect feedback from local unions and the industry, and to address new safety challenges as they arise. The organization works directly with the International Training Institute (ITI) to provide training programs for the unionized sheet metal industry.

For more information on SMOHIT, visit or call 703-739-7130.