IW general president Eric Dean said IW recently partnered with FallTech, a designer and tester of fall protection equipment, to design a novel ironworker anchor. The partnership aims to reduce fall deaths. Photo courtesy of IMPACT.

Mental health, safety and relationships were agenda items during the recent 2024 North American Iron Workers (IW)/Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT) Conference in Orlando. Organized by IW and IMPACT, the event brought together ironworkers, contractors and customers. It ran from Feb. 18-21, 2024, at the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace.

The conference covered various challenges throughout the construction and metal industries, including cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, clean energy and the metal building market. However, the conference opened with one of the most critical topics surrounding ironworkers and the construction industry: safety, particularly falls.

To mitigate the dangers of working at great heights, IW general president Eric Dean said IW recently partnered with FallTech, a designer and tester of fall protection equipment.

“The incorrect use of fall protection equipment and excessive fall distance has been a contributing causation factor in many incidents,” said Dean. “The IW safety and health department worked with FallTech designers and engineers to design the ironworker anchor. This portable, 5,000-pound anchor can be quickly bolted to structural columns that were shop fabricated with holes punched at four and seven feet above the column.”

Dean said that IMPACT trustees have approved the purchase of 1,000 anchors to be distributed during the organization’s summer training course.

Deaths in construction have risen over the years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its 2022 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary in December, which showed 105 more construction workers died in 2022 than in 2021. Additionally, 811 tradespeople were killed on the job in 2022, compared to 726 in 2021.

Mental health was also a focus throughout the conference.

According to Mike Court, senior vice president of health safety, environment quality and sustainability at Graham Construction, the construction industry needs to change its mindset and foster a safe and welcoming environment.

“We need to get rid of the stigma and the taboo tied to mental health,” said Court. “We also need to create an environment where we understand those who are living with mental health concerns. Quite frankly, it’s great for the industry and businesses and, most importantly, our people.”

The event’s keynote speaker was Mark Breslin, president of Breslin Strategies Inc. He spoke on the importance of people and the need for companies to adapt, especially since the construction industry is short 500,000 to one million workers.

“Talent flows to where it is valued most,” said Breslin. “… What do you think that value looks like?

According to Breslin, value is defined by relationships, not money. He explained that trading time for money is over because transactional relationships are superficial and not engaging. What the construction industry needs to do, said Breslin, is to promote a new message, and “it’s not a paycheck.”

“The story that the construction industry needs to tell is one of opportunity,” explained Breslin. “It is not money. It is not about becoming an ironworker and making good money. That’s dead in the water. I can be an electrician, a fitter, anything. Differentiate what you are doing. Upward mobility needs to be key in the industry. If you want more, we got it.”

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