Building Communities at Home and Abroad

“We do it because we see a need out there,”
- Bob Ritzmann, President, Alltrade Industrial Contractors

ECAO companies give back to help empower communities

Alltrade Contractors team in Zambia

Pictured is one of the work teams Alltrade Industrial Contractors recently sent to Kitwe, Zambia, Africa. The team provided supplies, equipment and a helping hand to local crews.

Each year, Alltrade Industrial Contractors invites its employees to help build schools in Africa that provide education to orphans. Along with supplies and equipment, they take with them valuable skills, a commitment to safety and a desire to help others as they look forward to impromptu soccer games with the countless kids who flock to their projects.

“We work alongside local workers and contractors,” says Bob Ritzmann, president of the Cambridge-based company and chair of Lifesong for Orphans Canada, a registered charitable organization that oversees the operations of the Lifesong Harmony School and the Lifesong Girls’ Home in Kitwe, Zambia. The school supports 550 students and grows each year with the addition of another grade.

“People there can’t believe we come all the way from Canada to work on schools. Zambia is a safe but poor country with a culture that’s very appreciative of what we do for them,” says Ritzmann. About seven years ago, he established Alltrade Community Connection to oversee his company’s work with various charities and volunteer organizations.

Closer to home, it provides financial support to non-profit organizations, including the Ontario Gleaners, Cystic Fibrosis Canada and Skatelife. It financially supports Habitat for Humanity and will soon begin volunteering on its jobsites. “We do it because we see a need out there,” Ritzmann says modestly, saying he prefers to be known simply as ‘Bob the electrician.’

Alltrade Industrial Contractors is a proud member of the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario (ECAO), an organization that represents and champions the interests of the electrical contracting industry. It shares ECAO’s commitment to safety and giving back to the community, earning the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association’s COR Certification in Ontario on its first attempt.

The certification is awarded to companies that successfully implement a comprehensive health and safety management system and is often required for contracts with both public- and private-sector construction projects in Ontario. “Safety is our No. 1 priority and is fundamental to our values,” Ritzmann says. “Innovative solutions must always be safe ones. The commitment we make to our customers, employees and community requires our activities to be safe and we believe that a safe workplace is the first step to a successful project.”

“The commitment we make to our customers, employees and community requires our activities to be safe and we believe that a safe workplace is the first step to a successful project.”

– Bob Ritzmann, President, Alltrade Industrial Contractors

Alltrade’s construction safety philosophy, “Build it Safe – No Exceptions” is about in-depth planning to identify and eliminate or control hazards. The company includes clients in the entire process, following the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Construction Roundtable analysis, which clearly demonstrates that an involved owner achieves better safety results. Its leading-indicator tracking program identifies conditions or actions that may result in an incident and is in addition to safety inspections project superintendents are required to complete daily. The information is used to continually improve both project and safety program performance. “Everyone goes home to our families unharmed and proud of our accomplishments.” Ritzmann says.

The health and safety of workers is a hallmark of ECAO. “Before anyone walks onto a jobsite for the very first time as an apprentice, they should be trained in construction site safety,” says executive director Graeme Aitken. “They’re aware of hazards — such as falls, slipping, tripping and overhead hazards — that you find on a typical jobsite. Contractors also offer training specific to sites like hospitals and steel mills, which have unique hazards like emergency vehicles and molten metal…Step one is providing the safety training to prevent injuries,” he says.

Skills training is even more critical. “Throughout their five-year apprenticeship, which includes on-the-job mentoring and supervision, as well as three terms of in-school learning, an apprentice learns the basics of electricity and continues to advance so they understand electricity as a system — whether that system’s in a home, a hospital or an office building — and how that system interacts with other systems,” says Aitken. “They continue to learn as a journeyperson. Training is absolutely critical in order to provide safe, efficient and on-time projects for our clients and the owners.”

ECAO members are electrical contractors with a contractual relationship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). The ECAO and IBEW are a formidable team of employers and electricians who are recognized industry leaders in delivering safe, stable and high quality electrical/telecommunications construction and maintenance services.

“It’s really a joint effort,” Aitken says. “Both parties fund safety training and have a vested interest in both worker and public safety.”

– by Linda White, Postmedia Content Works

This article was originally published in the National Post. Reproduced with permission.