In Menlo Park, California, sheet metal fabrication is continuing with business as usual.         

Although the coronavirus pandemic has caused some sheet metal operations to stop in their tracks, Western Allied Mechanical isn’t one of them. “At Western Allied Mechanical, business hasn’t slowed. It’s business as usual. Here are a few photos from our sheet metal shop in Menlo Park, California.”

In order to keep business going, Western Allied has taken a number of precautions to protect its workers from the coronavirus, including temperatire screenings and face mask requirements. (The above photos were taken pre-COVID-19). 

"We also have social distancing markings in the break area — limiting it to no more than three people. We encourage eating lunch outside where we have everything spread apart. We have cleaning materials everywhere  to make it easy to clean surfaces," says Angie Simon, company CEO and first-woman president of SMACNA. "The stress of COVID-19 – the overall fear of people getting sick and how we could keep our employees safe. We ask our sheet metal workers to be on the front line — out in the job site and in the manufacturing shop — working every day. We provide them with everything we can to protect them but this nasty virus has a way of hitting people even if they are careful. So now we also are working on keeping everyone mentally healthy too."

Western Allied employs around 150 union sheet metal workers. Although the initial screening precautions slowed things down a bit, the Western Allied team has adjusted and embraced the process in the name of safety. 

"We actually have seen an increase of pre-fab requests so that we can do more construction in the controlled environment of the shop. So we might actually have become more productive with this in mind," Simon says.  

Despite it all, Simon beleives now is as good a time as ever to be a sheet metal worker. 

"Now is a great time. Construction has been considered essential during this pandemic. Yes, the changes will affect some growth in construction but we have found the health care, biotech and life sciences markets have been very strong. I would feel a career in sheet metal would be way more secure than hospitality, food or entertainment at this time," she says.

To the sheet metal workers and contractors who are struggling during the pandemic, as president of SMACNA, Simon ecourages: "Hang in there. This is an industry that will survive — new buildings, remodels and retrofits will always be needed. I think the residential market might get better at this time since so many people are working from their homes. Be willing to think a bit outside the box. Look for markets that are not struggling so much and try and sell there."

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This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of SNIPS.