An Advocate for Safety

July 1, 2020

Aric Heide is at the forefront of refinish PPE

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.’ ” 

Heide pauses. 

“Those two events in my life lead to @Savage_PPE.” 

Prep, Paint & Safety Tricks

Prep: Make sure the car is clean. Do a solvent wipe on all the panels, including the jambs. The smallest mote of dust can ruin an otherwise fine paint job. 

Paint: When it comes to spraying, the difference between a great job and a botched one can come down to how you finish. I’ll use a rainbow-like arc, left to right and back again, and start spraying down, being sure to cover the sides completely as I make smaller arcs toward the lower center
of the panel, ensuring I’ve covered everything and that as my arm tires and the project goes on, I actually have less to paint. 

Safety: Keep your gear maintained. I change the filters as needed on all our PPE, writing the date when they’re changed on the gear as a backup. Booths must be clean, too; floor filters should be changed more often. Wear gloves while prepping and sanding. You need to wear a respirator in your mix room. If you can get fresh air in there, all the better. 

There’s not room for a half-mask anywhere in the paint booth anymore. I’d like to see that change sooner rather than later. If you’re using disposable
masks, keep them in a bag. Leaving them out isn’t good enough—OSHA will fine you. If you’re using replaceable cartridges, write the time and date.
Many are tested for 40 hours, but I’d change them more than that. 

Hearing protection is key. I have constant ringing in my ears from early in my career when I didn’t use hearing protection. 

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.

The Sprayout, with Aric Heide

@Savage_PPE, @jaheide

Who is your industry mentor?
Larry Richie was the painter under whom I trained in high school. 

What gets you up every morning?
The freedom of the challenge for eight hours is special; that variety is important.

What’s your dream car?
Plymouth Superbird.

What is your favorite paint/refinish event of the year?

Hands down it’s SEMA. From the refinish community, I’ve met so many people there and built up a nice network from around the world. 

What’s on the playlist?
Classic rock. You can never go wrong with Led Zeppelin, Van Halen or the Rolling Stones.

Favorite paint color?
I really like House of Kolor Tangelo, one of their designer pearls. I also love a Diamont-line color called Butterscorched.

What’s your favorite/go-to piece of painting equipment?

The air vision 5000. I’ve got the A/C unit, and I use it year-round. You can dial it up or dial it back. I like to paint at 80 degrees and the 5000 keeps me comfortable.

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