Scared Safe

Safety Stuffers from a Chicagoland contractor/union partnership entertain as they inform.

Ordinary Coffee Spilled On The Stairs Turned Them Into A Deathtrap! Those Stairs Were DEADLY WHEN WET. Starring Slick DeMise. Rated P for PERILOUS.

Is this an ad for the latest direct-to-video horror movie? No, it's text from the front of a Safety Stuffer released by the Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA) of Chicago and United Association Local Union (LU) 597 -- small flyers dispersed with weekly paychecks to LU 597 workers employed by member contractors of MCA Chicago. The back of that particular safety flyer reveals the rest of the message: Please, clean up spills as soon as possible.

Twenty-six different stuffers are being distributed, each conveying its safety message in the form of a scary movie ad that features eerie illustrations. The Safety Stuffers are sponsored by the LU 597/MCA Joint Safety Committee. One reads this way: A Frayed, Worn-Out Fall Protection Rope -- Thank Goodness She Inspected It Before Using It! THE FATAL FLAW. She Caught It -– Before It Could Kill! Starring Maria Diligent. Rated O for OBSERVANT. The message printed on the back reads: Please, inspect all equipment before you use it.

"The Safety Stuffers remind workers to observe important safety measures on the job," said Stephen Lamb, executive vice president of MCA Chicago. "We have the safest workforce in the industry, and the Stuffers help to keep them that way," he added. Mechanical contractors install and service heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems, fire sprinklers, plumbing, and process piping.

"The Safety Stuffers cover a wide variety of vitally important work site issues," said James Buchanan, business manager of LU 597. "There are Safety Stuffers for appropriate lifting techniques, proper ladder usage, personal protective equipment, lockout/tagout procedures, ergonomics, fire safety, and more. There are even Stuffers that address sexual harassment and workplace violence."

Nehlsen Communications, a marketing and public relations agency, helped MCA Chicago develop the Stuffers. "Safety is a huge issue to all of our construction clients," said Nancy Nehlsen, president of the agency. "We have to find ways to get workers' attention and make them be constantly aware of safety measures on the job. Today's workforce is used to the Internet and high-energy video games, and they like their information quick and engaging. If you can't excite their interest, you've lost them, so we made each Safety Stuffer eye-catching and entertaining and kept the text short for maximum impact."

Additional Tools
Buchanan said the partner organizations use additional tools to raise safety awareness. "For example, we also hold toolbox talks at work sites. At the start of each workday, workers gather so the foreman can share the day's prepared safety advice. Because all the workers hear the talks, everybody is on the same page, safety-wise. The talks remind them to work together and watch out for each other."

 MCA teaches numerous safety courses in its own Construction Education Institute, a learning institute with course offerings for all levels in the mechanical construction industry. "We offer classes in CPR and first aid with automated external defibrillator training, electric arc safety, and the OSHA 10-hour and 30-hour safety courses," Lamb said, "and we add new courses all the time."

For information on MCA Chicago, visit For more information on LU 597, visit

This article originally appeared in the December 2007 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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