Building Trades

Safety First

Elevator Union Trains To a High Level

By: Bendix Anderson
Constructing elevators is a dangerous job — workers need a lot of training to do the work safely.  “You have electrical hazards, you have mechanical hazards, height, chemicals, confined spaces… the list goes on and on,” says Dennis O’Niel, who runs the apprenticeship programs for Local One of the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC).  At Local One, workers undergo a four-year apprenticeship program. The classes meet once a week for four hours, about 40 weeks out of the year. That’s 144 hours of required class time a year.  The first seven weeks of class all put safety first, with class titles like “Introduction to Safety,” “Safety During Construction,” and “Safety during Maintenance.”  The instructors are veteran workers with years of experience constructing and maintaining elevators, says O’Niel.

There are a lot of local laws and regulations on the training of elevator workers — but the union’s training course far surpasses all of them.  For example, New York City requires all elevator workers to be certified by the federal Occupations Safety Health Administration (OSHA). The city demands an OSHA 10 certification on most construction sites. But it only takes 10 hours of coursework to get an OSHA 10 certification. The city also requires anyone who works on a scaffold to hold a license earned from a four-hour training course. These requirements, and others like them, are light compared to the hundreds of hours of class time required by the union.
The union’s focus of safety has become one of the main ways that Local One differentiates itself — safety is one of the strongest selling points for the union as it works to expand, according to union officials. When the union campaigns to bring a non-union shop into the union, the first concession the shop will make to its workers will be to improve its safety training and procedures.
February 21, 2010

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