Second-generation union sheet metal worker Dale Clark began work on Jan. 1 as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) specialist, a new position created to oversee health and safety classes for members. Clark comes to the International Training Institute (ITI) from Sheet Metal Workers Local 24 in Columbus, Ohio, where he taught OSHA classes and also helped run the second chance outreach program, which introduced the trades to people seeking a new start.

Clark has a wealth of industry and safety experience, and prior to joining ITI served as safety manager for Limbach Mechanical. Among his projects at Limbach was Facebook’s massive New Albany data center in central Ohio, a multi-building facility on a campus of nearly 2.5 million square feet.

For the past three years, Clark has worked as a consultant and trainer at ITI, and he still provides support and training for basic and advanced classes. As OSHA specialist, he is responsible for all aspects of the different OSHA classes available, from setup, paperwork and approval to teaching.

With approval from their training coordinator, members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) and Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ Association (SMACNA) can take levels 510 and 500 classes on OSHA standards, policies, and procedures in the construction industry, and levels 501 and 511 for general industry. Training coordinators must take levels 502 and 503 in order to update their OSHA Authorized Construction Outreach Trainer and Disaster Site Worker Outreach Trainer cards. Most courses can be completed in five days.

Though Clark is the first to serve in this newly created position, he is not the only ITI staffer with OSHA knowledge and experience. Len Liebert, also on the ITI’s field staff, also helps teach some of the courses.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed much of the standard procedures for training, with many more classes now moved online. This presented some opportunities but also brought challenges.

“You still have to bring the same energy that you would in person,” Clark noted, describing how he keeps students engaged remotely without the one-on-one experience. “It’s still a brotherhood and a sisterhood whether you’re there in person or not.”

Clark said he finds himself training on two different levels now — teaching members about OSHA guidelines while also helping instructors navigate online platforms. His main goal is to send these trainers back to their locals with a better understanding of health and safety as well as how to teach, and that includes familiarizing them with the tools needed to teach during a pandemic. Smaller locals might not have the same resources as larger training centers, but ITI can help bridge the gap.

The health concerns of members are not limited to the here and now of a workplace environment, Clark noted. He feels it’s important to make the men and women he trains understand that health and safety means everything from mental health to safeguarding your future quality of life.

“By teaching OSHA, I can get through to them about being safe mentally and physically. A lot of workers, they understand the physical but they forget about the mental aspect,” he said. “It’s not just about operating equipment. It’s about staying fit as we get older. I see so many people in the trades work toward retirement, and then they can’t enjoy their retirement because of their health.”

Clark’s dedication to safety stems from a long family history with the sheet metal industry. His father retired from the industry in 2013 but still teaches pre-apprentice courses and serves as a mentor at Local 24. “My dad’s my best friend,” Clark said, noting that his father encouraged him to apprentice at Local 24 after a stint in college football and a few warehouse jobs.

The family involvement doesn’t end there — Clark’s older brother is a journey-level worker and teaches courses at the local on a part-time basis, and his nephew is a fourth-year apprentice.

Clark resides in Canal Winchester, Ohio, with his wife, Ashley, and two children.

More than 14,000 apprentices are registered at 148 training facilities across the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by SMART and SMACNA.

ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), welding and industrial, architectural and ornamental, and service and testing, adjusting and balancing industry throughout the United States and Canada. The ITI develops and produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journey workers.

For more information about ITI and its available training curriculum for members covering sheet metal trade work, visit the website or call 703-739-7200.

Originally posted on Eye on Sheet Metal