IUPAT Campaign Combats Suicide and Substance Use Disorder in Construction

The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) has launched its IUPAT Helping Hand campaign to help combat the high rates of suicide and substance use disorder among construction workers, including glaziers. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness and provide resources to trade workers.

Construction workers face numerous challenges, including physical injuries that put them at risk to consider suicide or use pills, often opioids, for pain relief and to get back on the job so they can be paid. But that drug use can lead to addiction and substance use disorder, according to the IUPAT.

Substance use disorder isn’t the only hardship from which working families suffer. A November 2018 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that male construction workers have the highest rate of suicide in the U.S. Other studies show similar results for Canadian workers. The data shows that construction workers are three times more likely to take their own life than the rest of the population.

“A couple of years ago, the Painters and Allied Trades for Children’s Hope Foundation, a charity organization founded by the IUPAT, launched an initiative with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to raise awareness of how we can all play a part in suicide prevention,” says Anton Ruesing, director of the International Finishing Trades Institute (FTI). “This was not only in response to a growing number of reports in the media about how prevalent suicide is in the construction industry, but also to the story one of our contractors shared with us about losing his son to suicide in 2009. Since then, that contractor has been working as an advocate for NAMI.”

Ruesing says that story, coupled with how the growing opioid epidemic was taking its toll on the construction workforce, moved IUPAT general president Ken Rigmaiden to direct the FTI staff to create resources and curriculum to help its members, their families and anyone else who is suffering from substance use disorder or thoughts of suicide.

“We want workers, their friends and family to recognize the symptoms of
mental health disorders and have access to resources for help,” says Rigmaiden.

Resources on the site include:
• The phone numbers for the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Services Canada Helpline;
• A list of behaviors that may indicate serious risk for suicide

• Warning signs of substance use disorder;
• Contact information for mental illness helplines and therapy organizations; and
• Downloadable materials about suicide prevention and substance use disorder.

In addition to the resources available on the IUPAT website, the FTI has also
created curriculum to, “Change the Culture of Construction.” It involves
IUPAT members from its district councils being trained to educate members
and provide a pathway to treatment.

“We literally do have to change the culture of construction when it comes to these issues and others,” says Ruesing. “Men in construction typically have the ‘tough guy’ mentality that often prevents them from seeking help if they need it, and from reaching out to someone to see if they need help. That has to change not only in the workforce, but with the employers as well.”

More information is available at www.lmcionline.org/IUPAThelpinghand.

Arizona Glass Specialists Celebrates 15 Years

With 15 years’ experience in the commercial glazing industry, the owners at Arizona Glass Specialists know what is most important to a company’s success: its employees. According to Jeffrey Yazwa, pre-construction director for the Chandler, Ariz.-based company, finding solid field and office employees has been one of his company’s biggest obstacles over the past 15 years. That is why owners Gary Stevenson and Richard Harmon emphasize good training practices.

Yazwa says that new employees go through a 90-day evaluation period where they are trained in safety and best practices.

“One of the things that we pride ourselves on is that we hire with the assumption that they’re staying here for good. We don’t hire anyone temporarily,” says Yazwa.

After the evaluation period, employees have opportunities to earn salary increases. Every six months the company does informal evaluations to prepare for the annual review, which provides employees with another chance to increase their salary.

“It’s important for everyone here to be recognized every year and to make
sure that if they deserve an increase in pay that they get it,” says Yazwa. “We have things for them to look at and see where they can be in five years if they do what they’re supposed to be doing and continue to rise. The sky’s the limit.”

Yazwa believes this training program improves employee retention. The company currently has 70 employees.

Another major challenge the company has faced in its 15-year history was the Great Recession in 2008. The company maintained its revenue stream by taking on government work in Arizona and neighboring states, and in 2012 began gaining momentum. According to Yazwa, the company’s biggest accomplishments have been topping $10 million in one year and getting its foot in the door with general contractors that wouldn’t work with the company when it first started. In 2018, Arizona Glass Specialists’ revenue was nearly $10.7 million.

Going forward, Yazwa says the company plans to continue growing through its aluminum composite metal business, which has seen more demand from architects in the region, and to switch to doing fully unitized curtainwall. Currently, the company does unitized curtainwall work if the project is right, but often fabricates the frames in shop and installs the glass at the jobsite.

“We’re going toward doing more unitized for efficiency and the desire for growth,” says Yazwa.

The company focuses on commercial storefront and curtainwall, and specializes in mixed-use, university, government, multi-family and medical facility projects. The company plans to start branching out to neighboring states in the future.

AGMT Certification Program Gains ANSI Accreditation

The Architectural Glass and Metal Technician (AGMT) Certification Program gained accreditation from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to the ISO/IEC 1702422012 standard March 29, 2019. ANSI provides third-party accreditation services.

This achievement comes after a rigorous assessment process where the AGMT program and AMS Inc., the program‘s administrator and certification body, were evaluated in accordance with the ISO/IEC 17024:2012 standard, an international standard containing requirements for bodies operating personnel certification programs.

“This accreditation is really a recognition that the AGMT program has in place the right people, tools and processes to ensure a fair and valid certification process for each and every candidate…there‘s no better way to say that than to have an independent third-party organization like ANSI witness the program in operation and attest to that fact through accreditation,” says AMS quality assurance manager Terry Schaefer.

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