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Home / Commercial Construction / Tech, mental health, pandemic rules highlight safety panel talk (VIDEO)

Tech, mental health, pandemic rules highlight safety panel talk (VIDEO)


Mental health, coronavirus guidelines, changing technology and training the next generation of tradespeople were some of the highlights of The Daily Reporter’s 2023 Hard Hat Safety Forum on Wednesday.

Dan Bukiewicz, president of the Milwaukee Building & Construction Trades Council; Dan Burazin, safety director for Associated General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee; Don Moen, safety director for Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin; and Dan Sperberg, training director for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 answered questions and gave an update on safety in Wisconsin’s construction industry.

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools, businesses and workplaces over the last two years, construction remained an essential service. While infection rates aren’t as prevalent as they were a couple of years ago, there remains a culture of sanitation, testing and distancing in the labor union workforce, Bukiewicz said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is looking at legislation for handling infectious diseases in the workplace and may introduce a new policy soon, Burazin said. If crews work on health care projects like hospitals and clinics, they must comply with coronavirus protocols like immunization and masks regardless of other job sites.

Mental health will play a larger role in safety after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found construction was among the highest suicide rates than any other job sector. Some companies and labor organizations put together programs with access to professionals and mental health resources.

The Operating Engineers fast-tracked a mental health hotline for its members when the pandemic closed in during 2020, Sperberg said. The hotline connects to a union member who can help in times of need, he added. If the caller needs more help, the union connects them with a mental health professional.

“They’ve got somebody on staff who they can say, ‘Hey, this guy is a good listener, I want to talk to this person,’” Sperberg said. “So, we’ve implemented that throughout the whole state of Wisconsin.”

The Wisconsin Construction Wellness Community, a program started by general contractors, will also provide videos, phone numbers and links to workers in need.

As construction technology changes, safety coordinators will have to be prepared to deliver training online more often and to work with new techniques like modular building, Moen said.

“We’ve talked about how things are becoming modular in the future,” Moen said. “Well, we’re starting to see that now with post-laminate timber structures going up, so how we put those components together is changing a little bit in training also. We’re getting deeper in the work being done in terms of exoskeleton equipment to put on for our concrete and masonry people, and automatic equipment for lifting big blocks.”

About Ethan Duran

Ethan Duran is the construction and development reporter at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (414) 551-7505 or [email protected]

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