LAS VEGAS - An infamous former con man, a 1980s pop star and a talk from a Trane Co. executive proved to be powerful draws for SMACNA members.

The Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association brought its 64th annual meeting to Las Vegas and the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. The Oct. 21-25 event attracted more than 1,300, and was the first time SMACNA brought its fall event to Nevada since 2002.

Opening session speaker Frank Abagnale, whose life as a young con man in the 1960s and was featured in the movie “Catch Me if You Can,” joked about his crime spree but then spoke seriously about the estrangement from his family that fueled it.

The popular HVAC Contractors Forum Oct. 22 featured John W. Conover IV, the president of Trane in the Americas, who offered his views on the current state and future of the HVAC industry.


He estimated the worldwide value of the HVAC market at $80 billion, and predicted it could surpass $100 billion by 2010.

“The market potential is the greatest it’s ever been,” Conover said, adding that China’s super-hot economy is fueling much of that boom.

China will soon erect the equivalent of five new cities, each the size of Columbus, Ohio - about 733,000 people - further increasing the need for equipment, he said.

In fact, growth in the HVAC industry is currently exceeding 6 percent annually - a rate twice that of the global gross national product output.

However, regulatory issues, along with the tightening of credit markets, could affect those trends.

“A lot of what we see is going to be dictated to us,” Conover said. “Time will tell.”

With up to 25 percent of all energy consumed in the United States attributed to HVAC systems, makers and installers will be affected.

“The real issue,” Conover said, “is how we take care of the … opportunity.”

He cited structures in New York state and Los Angeles where Trane systems were able to fix energy-related problems.

Indoor air quality will only continue to grow in importance, he said, quoting studies that said IAQ in some buildings is up to five times worse than outdoor air.

It will be difficult for the industry to meet expected growth, however, if it can’t find enough workers. A Mechanical Contractors Association of America study Conover cited said that for every three HVAC workers expected to retire in the next decade, there is only one person on a career path to replace them.

He recommended increasing efforts to reach women and others not currently considering the industry.

“Engineering talent today is really going to be in demand,” he added.

Thomas E. Glavinich, Ph.D., P.E., an associate professor at the University of Kansas, talked about SMACNA’s upcoming guide to so-called green construction. He said the environmental-building movement isn’t going to disappear. Image courtesy of SMACNA.

Growing ‘green'

The other speaker at the HVAC Contractors Forum was Thomas E. Glavinich, Ph.D., P.E., an associate professor at the University of Kansas. Glavinich spoke about SMACNA’s green-building guide, currently under final review. The guide explains the U.S. Green Building Council’s popular Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, which is being included in many cities’ and states’ building codes.

LEED requires builders to create structures that conserve energy and reduce their impact on the environment. It assigns points based on efficiency and meeting design criteria.

“A lot of the points they can get come from HVAC in one way or another,” Glavinich said.

He told contractors if they haven’t encountered building owners who want to “go green” yet, they will.

“This is something that’s coming down the pike,” he said. “You’ve really got to take a good look at your contracts (involving) green buildings.”

He compared it to the continuous push to increase shop efficiency.

“Green is lean construction in a lot of ways,” he said.

Such programs place a heavy emphasis on building commissioning, Glavinich said.

“Be sure to know what’s required of you,” he advised.

David Coble, the president of Coble, Taylor & Jones Safety Associates in Cary, N.C., gave safety tips to members. Image courtesy of SMACNA.

Safety measures

David Coble knows an unsafe worksite when he sees it. He even has the pictures to prove it.

Coble, the president of Coble, Taylor & Jones Safety Associates in Cary, N.C., led SMACNA’s Oct. 23 seminar, “Effective Safety Training Techniques.”

During the presentation, Coble shared with SMACNA members photos he’s collected that show construction workers forgetting some basic safety techniques. He showed everything from improper ladder procedures to potential electrical dangers. The purpose was to show attendees why they need to provide their employees with regular safety training.

Coble has over 33 years of safety training experience, and he spent 12 of those years with the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Administration. According to Coble, not only do you want to keep your workers safe, but you need to make sure you are compliant with OSHA. He explained that there are 730 OSHA standards that require training and inspection.

He also told SMACNA members that they could be cited for not providing safety training for their employees once a year. Many OSHA standards also require initial training for employees, as well as annual training to keep up to date.

So what are the most important training topics that need to be covered for workers? Coble gave the Top 10 training topics that sheet metal companies should provide for their workers.

1. Ladder safety. Many of the photos Coble shared during his presentation showed workers using ladders incorrectly. This included using the wrong ladder for a job, using the top of a ladder as a step, and even using broken ladders.

Coble explained that workers need to know the proper use of different ladders, including portable and construction ladders. They also need to know how to inspect them to make sure they are not damaged or unusable.

Coble asked the audience, “Have you taught your employees proper ladder storage?”

2. Use of fall-prevention devices. Coble stressed the importance of training workers to use harnesses and straps. He said anyone who is performing a job off the ground must use a harness, including “beam walkers” on a construction site.

If anyone does fall from a building under construction, there must be a plan to rescue the person hanging from the side of the building. Workers must be trained on what to do under these circumstances to get the person down as quickly as possible.

3. Use of scaffolds and aerial lifts. “Anyone who uses a scaffold must have scaffold training,” said Coble.

This training includes remembering that scaffolds have to be inspected before each new shift. Workers must also inspect the screw jacks and base plates on the scaffold.

When it comes to using aerial lifts, Coble says employees must always be tied off. With scaffolds, they must always have guardrails. Workers should never use a scaffold that does not have guardrails.

4. Use of manual hand and power tools. Some workers don’t know the proper use of certain hand tools. To illustrate this, Coble pointed out that there are “16 different hammers at Home Depot, all with different uses.”

He asked the attendees, “Would your employees know which one to use on a certain job?”

Employees need to make sure that all hand and power tools have safety guards. When operating these tools, workers need to have the proper equipment on, whether this means dust masks, earplugs or a mask to protect their eyes.

5. Hearing conservation and respirators. When cutting or welding, Coble says that workers must use protection devices, such as respirators. This is especially important when dealing with galvanized chromium. He also says that dust masks and earplugs should be used during noisy applications.

6. Welding, burning and cutting. Coble again brought up the importance of proper attire and equipment when operating any machines used for welding or cutting. This includes making sure that all skin is protected and proper eye equipment is being used. He stressed that does not mean sunglasses.

When it comes to welding, Coble noted that there is a welding tip chart that is required by OSHA. He encouraged the attendees to use it.

And when it comes to repairs, Coble urged attendees not to “repair welding and cutting hoses with duct tape.”

7. Electrical safety work practices. When it comes to electrical safety, space heaters are an important concern on a jobsite. Coble said that space heaters must have a device that will prevent them from tipping over. Workers must also be conscious of the placement of space heaters, such as keeping them away from paper or other flammable material.

When it comes to surge protectors, Coble says they “can only be used for office equipment.” Surge protectors should never be used on a jobsite.

He also noted that workers must learn proper use of ground fault circuit interrupter plugs, ungrounded tools and what tools can and cannot be used on electrical equipment.

8. Machine safety. Coble talked about using shears, spot welders, roll formers and other pieces of equipment. He noted that there needs to be barriers around shears and beaders must have guards to protect employees from getting clothes caught in the machines.

When using rollers, Coble said that there is the danger of workers getting their fingers caught in the machine. This is when “OSHA requires an emergency trip wire that can be hit with the knee that stops the machine,” he said.

Roll formers must also have a reverse function if anything gets caught in the machine. If the machine doesn’t have a reverse button, Coble said two people must work on the machine together.

9. Ergonomics. Coble said that workers need to use good hand tools and know proper lifting techniques. He suggested using long-handled dustpans that prevent workers from bending too much at the waist. He also encourages the use of kneepads and proper hand protection.

And when it comes to lifting, he said workers should make sure they “lift with the knees, not the waist.”

10. Fire protection and ‘hot’ work. In this category, Coble says that contractors must have an emergency plan on the jobsite or in the shop.

“Make sure your guys know how to get out in an emergency,” he said.

Workers also need to know where eyewash stations and first aid kits are located.

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail