Fifth Annual Safety Champions Conference, Awards Set for March

February 22, 2020

SMOHIT logoWHAT:  The Sheet Metal Occupational Institute Trust (SMOHIT) will host the 2020 Safety Champions Conference with the mission to build a culture of safety in the sheet metal industry through the sharing of information and ideas during workshops, guest speakers and break-out groups. Attendees come away from the event with solutions that can be immediately implemented at home.

The conference welcomes workers, contractors and owners who participate in activities to build skills development on safety culture and climate; search for solutions to safety challenges; and develop best practices involving safety and health.

During the conference’s opening reception, winners of the Safety Matters Awards will be recognized. Winners come to the conference from all over the country to receive their awards and attend the conference. Safety Matters Awards recipients can be found below.

WHO:  Dr. David Michaels, an epidemiologist and professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, will be the event’s keynote speaker. As the secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from 2009-17, Michaels strengthened exposure standards for silica and beryllium and issued new rules on safety; injury record-keeping and reporting; and hazard communication. He launched OSHA’s Temporary Workers Initiative and greatly increased the agency’s focus on the healthcare industry.

SMOHIT was founded in 1986 to address the impact of decades-long asbestos exposure on those working in the sheet metal industry. 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. For more information on SMOHIT, visit or call 703-739-7130.

WHEN:         Safety Matters Awards and Reception: Sunday, March 22

                        Conference: Monday and Tuesday, March 23 and 24

WHERE:       Westin Riverwalk

                        420 Market St.

                        San Antonio, Texas

CONTACT:   Tiffannie Bond, Imagine Communications: 702-837-8996/702-426-5178

                        Nadia Zerka, Imagine Communications: 702-837-8996/702-612-1794

VISUAL OP: Workers, contractors and owners will work together in small break-out sessions and during workshops to cultivate and promote safe work places.


Jake Boulware, safety director at Total Mechanical, Pewaukee, Wisconsin

  • The company has met the 1 million work hours without a lost-time injury three times in less than a decade — in 2011, 2014 and 2019.

Albert Blanco, Jr., training director, Sheet Metal Workers Local 359 Training Center in Phoenix

  • Blanco recently created a jobsite bullying and harassment training program to teach apprentices and Local 359 members about the emotional and mental effects associated with bullying and harassment on jobsites. It was added to the apprenticeship curriculum to be reviewed annually.

Paul Crist, business agent, for Sheet Metal Workers Local 71 in Buffalo, New York

  • Crist created the Training Incentive Program (TIPS), which generated more than 16,000 additional safety and trade-related training for Local 71 members with incentives for those who participate.

Mike Hilgert, owner of Superior Duct Fabrication in Pomona, California

  • In 2016, Hilgert set out to place an emphasis on training, accountability, compliance and employee buy-in in order to change the company’s safety culture. From guards on the press brakes to rewards and training programs, Hilgert led the company to double in size in the last four years while cutting its incident rate in half.

Jamie DeVan, Mid-Atlantic safety manager for Southland Industries in the Washington, D.C. area

  • DeVan leads the division’s positive safety culture by creating a sense of caring about safety and fellow employees. He worked together with SMOHIT to create the 2019 safety video, “Life of a Duct.”

C.J. Hansen Co. Inc., mechanical contractors in Salem, Oregon

  • The company developed and implemented a Daily Pre-Task Safety Plan, a two-page document issued to all foremen and lead journeymen on any jobsite during the project kickoff. Used daily, it’s also used to collect date on the job to forecast material and labor needs in addition to capturing a snapshot of safety on the project by encouraging past, present and future consideration of the specific project.