Union sheet-metal industry joins state of Indiana in historic safety alliance

INDIANAPOLIS (June 26, 2008) – At a time when the state of Indiana is coming down hard on safety violations at construction sites run by negligent operators, top state labor officials were happy to announce some good news: A historic safety alliance with the union sheet-metal industry. (View signature sheet for contractors.)

Signing ceremony.
Indiana Labor Commissioner Lori Torres leads the signing of a historic safety alliance agreement with the state’s union sheet-metal industry. Behind her (from left) are Robert Baldwin of Safety Resources, Gary Pierson of Sheet Metal Workers Local 20, Phil Gillespie of SMACNA, and Sean Keefer and Jeffry Carter of the Indiana Department of Labor. The signing ceremony took place at SMACNA’s downtown Indianapolis office.

In a June 26 signing ceremony in Indianapolis, leaders from the state Department of Labor joined with sheet-metal contractors and workers to endorse a two-year alliance that promises to set a new standard on the preventive side of workplace safety.

“This is a great example of government and industry working together,” said Lori Torres, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Labor. “With this agreement, we can make a difference in injury and illness rates of sheet-metal workers.”

The two-year agreement establishes a voluntary cooperative relationship between the union sheet-metal industry and state safety officials. The state will provide training and consultation, including an Internet scheduling portal that gives the industry priority access to the state’s INSafe workplace-safety consultants.

In turn, Indiana’s union sheet-metal industry officials agreed to systematically share data on best practices and effective approaches in workplace safety, and to promote member-company participation in state safety programs.

“It’s pretty great that we can get the whole industry together in this safety alliance,” said Phil Gillespie, executive director of Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA) of Central Indiana and the Fort Wayne area. “This initiative has been six months in the making. It sets a standard in our industry.”

In addition to the Indiana SMACNA chapters, which represent sheet-metal employers, alliance signatories also included officials with Local 20 of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, which covers the state of Indiana. Also signing the agreement was a representative from Safety Resources, a consultancy that specializes in industrial workplace safety.

Torres, the labor commissioner, was flanked at the ceremony by top deputies in charge of both enforcement and consultation.

Jeffry Carter, the deputy commissioner who runs IOSHA, which handles enforcement, was instrumental in putting the alliance together. He emphasized the importance of getting the private sector, the union and government all participating in the safety initiative. “It’s a little unusual nationally to have all of these parties in the same agreement,” Carter said.

Added Sean Keefer, the deputy commissioner in charge of INSafe, the department’s consulting wing: “The consultation side of the department is getting more active in working with good actors. And so for us, alliances are an excellent way to say you’re demonstrating an excellent work and safety record. This association has shown work on the preventive side.”

Gary Pierson, a business representative with Local 20, pointed to the benefits of working aggressively with government agencies on safety. “Working hand-in-hand with IOSHA and contractors will assist our members in being safer,” Pierson said, “on the job site and in the shop.”

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