An Advocate for Safety
Way up north in Minnesota, one of the paint industry’s most ardent voices regarding safety and PPE is at the end of another long (and good) day of painting. Aric Heide works for LaMettry’s Collision, a well-known group of collision centers around Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area in Minnesota. He began painting in high school and has never looked back.
“I just fell in love with painting,” he says, “and that was 1977. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Heide has seen the industry shift and change over almost fifty years, and his thoughts echo many on the overall technician / skilled labor shortage haunting collision repair centers across the country.
“I think we’re failing at the high school level; for many years, the doctrine was, ‘you need a college degree if you’re going to do anything.’ But you can make a really good living as an automotive painter.”
Heide is hopeful things will improve. He describes a friend who teaches in northern Minnesota who started a maintenance class, which spawned into automotive, hopeful for half a dozen female students curious to explore this path as a career.
Eighty-one young women enrolled.
“So the need and the desire are out there,” Heide says, “we just have to harness it.”
And he’s up to the challenge
Promote PPE to Save Lives
Part of that challenge is ensuring the safety gear keeps up with industry as tech has taken over every aspect of vehicle repair. Heide is one of the primary content curators behind @Savage_PPE, a paint-forward Instagram account that spreads the good word about responsible health and paint booth habits. Heide has long had the teaching/mentorship flame within, and now he uses his time in the field (and the booth) to share what he believes will help drive this industry forward—proper care and use of personal protective equipment, or PPE, a 2020 buzzword if there ever were one.
“I take that as a responsibility of mine,” he says, “and I would like to go out and talk to people, go into some of these schools and communities. It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding work.”
As of May 2020, @Savage_PPE has over 500 posts and, 2,100+ followers, checking in on every paint booth, PPE, gun and character—of which there are many—the account posts on Instagram, the preferred social medium of painters everywhere.
“Sometimes, shock factor is a good thing,” Heide says. He started paying more attention to PPE when, first his mentor and then an unborn child both passed. His mentor had cancer, and the doctor’s opinion was that more stringent safety measures in the shop may have prevented or at least slowed it.
“As for our child, the best I can say is we didn’t know,” he says.
“At the time, SDS [Safety Data Sheets, standardized and distributed among consumer products and overseen by the United Nations’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals] sheets were hard to come by, but our paint cans used to read ‘May Cause Birth Defects.’ ”
“Those two events in my life lead to @Savage_PPE.”
Advocate a Future of Safety
According to the account, @Savage_PPE is “Dedicated to all things Personal Protection Equipment for the Refinish industry and daily proper use.” Heide fulfills that promise in a variety of ways: helmets show the condensation difference between fresh and recirculated air within; close-ups of warning labels and precautionary measures merit further conversation; guest painters from across North America post their PPE and habits as well. @Savage_PPE is a vibrant, robust community of responsible painters advocating not only for themselves, but for the next generation as well.
“I’m there for them, anytime,” Heide says. “We didn’t have that ability growing up; we didn’t have painters sharing their passions and secrets. With social media, you can do that.”
With proper PPE, Heide notes, you can do just about anything in the life of a painter. But don’t take my word for it—contact him yourself.
@Savage_PPE and @jaheide are here to help.