Sheet Metal Occupational Institute Trust Award Recipients Recognized for Work Safety Culture

Although the 2020 Safety Champions Conference and Safety Matters Awards was rescheduled due to the pandemic, the Sheet Metal Occupational Institute Trust, the safety arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry, recognized honorees from Pewaukee, Wisconsin; Phoenix, Arizona; Buffalo, New York; Pomona, California; Washington, D.C. and Salem, Oregon, who make safety a priority.

For some, awards were sent to their homes. Others would rather wait until the 2021 conference, where recipients from the last two years will be recognized. The conference, originally scheduled for March 22-24 in San Antonio, Texas, is being rescheduled for 2021. For more information, visit

The 2020 SMOHIT Safety Matters Awards honorees are:

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

  • The company has met 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, Arizona

  • 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, 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 journeypersons on any jobsite during the project kickoff. Used daily, it’s also used to collect data 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.