SMACNA Announces J.F. Ahern Co. as Safety Innovation Award Winner

Milwaukee-based contractor recognized for successful training safety program

Chantilly, Va. (August 2, 2021) – The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA), the leader in promoting quality and excellence in the sheet metal and air conditioning industry, today announced that J.F Ahern Co., a mechanical and fire protection contractor and member of the SMACNA Wisconsin Chapter, has been selected to receive the association’s annual Safety Innovation Award. In collaboration with SMACNA Premier Partners Milwaukee Tool and Federated Insurance, the Safety Innovation Award recognizes the company that demonstrates an innovative safety idea, concept or best practice that improves its safety programming or culture.

J.F. Ahern Co. received the award for implementing a highly interactive safety training, delivering a virtual training series to nearly 1,200 volunteer participants in the midst of the pandemic – making it the company’s most attended safety training event. The initiative underscored the company’s commitment to staying connected to all essential crews while diversifying programming to ensure engagement and participation in understanding incidents with high potential to result in a serious injury and/or fatality. This led to the development of a training program called Hidden Hazards to address situations or incidents that are easy to look past, miss or simply accept without consideration for safety. 

“We sincerely appreciate this recognition of our efforts and the generosity of Milwaukee Tool and Federated Insurance,” said Dustin Rusch, Chief Safety Officer at J.F. Ahern Co. “Safety is a central tenant of the important work we do and we’re proud of our award-winning safety programs.”

Acknowledging that normal training pathways, such as in person groups, would not be possible, J. F. Ahern Co. coordinated a digital delivery method for the training via Zoom. The training was created with trailer videos made to introduce each episode on a specific safety topic. Live polling and chat functionalities were employed for participants to ask questions and encourage engagement. J.F. Ahern Co. also featured employee videos, micro learning videos and voice clips from the field operations team and leadership throughout the training series.

As a national association committed to health and safety, SMACNA encourages all members to understand the importance of adequate safety training as a foundation to a successful safety culture and implement proper training based on the anticipated work and hazards faced by workers. Training and pre-planning are key to reducing occupational injuries and illnesses. The annual award celebrates those who continue to put safety first. SMACNA members who completed the 2021 Safety Excellence Survey were eligible to apply for the Safety Innovation Award.

“Thank you to all the SMACNA members who submitted entries to the 2021 Safety Innovation Award program,” said Mike McCullion, Director of Market Sectors and Safety at SMACNA. “J. F. Ahern Co. provided a great example of how their firm is promoting safety excellence by providing details on an innovative and interactive approach to safety and health training. The company is well-deserving of this award. Congratulations to all.”

Sponsors Milwaukee Tool and Federated Insurance will each donate $2,500 to J.F. Ahern Co.’s charity of choice, the Froedtert Hospital Foundation. The foundation develops and grows philanthropic resources to optimize the initiatives of Froedtert Hospital to improve patient outcomes and offers specific support for clinical research, clinical centers of excellence, patient care, and related capital, health, and community health education programs.


The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) is an international trade association representing 3,500 contributing contractor firms and is a leader in promoting quality and excellence in the sheet metal and air conditioning industry. SMACNA members are responsible for effectively delivering the clean air Americans breathe in offices, homes, and hospitals; for many of the attractive facades you see on today’s stadiums and office buildings; and for the comfortable, healthy, and safe living environments in which our citizens live out their daily lives. SMACNA has national offices in Chantilly, Va., outside of Washington, D.C., and on Capitol Hill. For more information, visit

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Meagan Dominick
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