For the past five years, The Unified Group, an alliance of independent mechanical contractors devoted to collaboration and the sharing of intelligent ideas, has held a Construction Forum, offering its members opportunities to learn and connect with other industry professionals. This year’s forum, held in September in Green Bay, Wisconsin, drew more than 40 members, making it the most attended forum in the event’s half-decade history.

The Unified Group introduced a safety component to this year’s forum, rebranding the event the Construction Operations and Safety Forum. According to attendees and organizers, the safety segment was a welcome addition to the three-day event.

“We wanted a topic that would benefit both the service and construction sides of each member’s business,” said Julie Bishop, executive director, The Unified Group. “Safety applies to everyone. This was a really nice way to bring everything together. As a group, we’re always looking for timely topics and ways to reach our member companies.”

The forum included breakout sessions about prefab, fab shop management, job costing and tracking, claims management, recordable versus non-recordable incidents, manpower and personnel management, and presentations on maximizing profits and Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) violations.

“I thought the forum was very successful,” said Bishop. “So many of the topics really hit home for a lot of our members. We always hear they really enjoy time spent in breakout sessions, so we made sure to include safety and construction breakouts each day. On the second day, we spent the morning touring Tweet Garot Mechanical, a member of The Unified Group based in Green Bay. Reps walked us through the company’s entire operation including the prefab shop. It was amazing to see Tweet’s impressive safety culture in person. So many members were taking pictures and asking questions. The Unified Group’s membership is geographically exclusive, so members really can ask anything and feel comfortable sharing information.”

The highlight for many attendees was the tour of Tweet Garot Mechanical. Tony Condon, safety director, Yale Mechanical LLC, Minneapolis, a first-time attendee, said the most interesting topic of the entire event was listening to Tim Howald, owner and CEO of Tweet Garot, speak about the company’s ability to connect operations and safety.

“This was the last topic of the event; however, it was evident throughout all facets of our Tweet Garot tour that there is a strong and productive connection between the two [operations and safety],” Condon said. “Having a strong safety culture is critical for a company to have a successful safety program. I am always interested in seeing how top-performing companies, like Tweet Garot, have gotten to where they are.”

According to Greg Wierzba, service division manager for Tweet Garot, several members of The Unified Group previously toured the company and felt it would be a good setting to showcase a large construction company with a service department and strong safety department. “Tweet Garot currently has more than 8 million hours and 10 years without a lost time incident. This is due to two full-time safety directors and an occupational nurse on staff,” he said.

“Tweet Garot is centered on the culture of safety in the workplace and is focused on implementing it into every process we do, from construction to service to shop fabrication and more,” Wierzba said. “The tour of the facility emphasized the importance of safety in the mindset and culture of every Tweet Garot employee. The main theme was not the cost, but the importance of returning workers home each day to their families in the healthy manner in which they left for work that day.”

Erik Lewis, operations manager, Climate Engineers Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said the forum included many of the topics he deals with every day, but he found the safety aspect of the forum the most interesting. “We are all trying to do our best regarding safety. Seeing what other companies have done to improve their safety programs makes all of our safety operations stronger.”

Sam De Angelis, CEO, Colorado Climate Maintenance Inc., Englewood, Colorado, was one of the safety facilitators at the forum. De Angelis said he prepared for the event by reviewing the safety programs of each attending company. During the main sessions, he referenced examples of those who excelled and those who fell short. According to De Angelis, the best thing about the event was “being able to have everyone share what they are doing, explain how they got there, and offering up a number of safety training resources.”

De Angelis said safety is part of the everyday operations at Colorado Climate Maintenance. “We’re always looking at how we’re completing tasks and making sure we’re doing it safely, regardless of the amount of time or resources it requires,” he said.

“Each of us in attendance took something from the other members that we can improve on,” Wierzba said. “Our crew also developed some contacts, resources, and friendships to follow up on, and we left with new information, techniques, and ideas. The Unified Group continues to be a great resource for people in the mechanical world in an open-share concept.”

For more information on The Unified Group, visit

Publication date: 12/1/2014

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