In bittersweet news, the Fund is losing two of our longest serving and most experienced staff members to retirement. Patrick Kelly, Director of the Fund’s Accounting Department, and Walter Jones, Director of the Fund’s Occupational Safety & Health Division, are both retiring after more than 20 years of service at the LHSFNA.
“Patrick and Walter have left their mark here at the Fund, and the great contributions they’ve made will continue to be felt for years to come,” said Lisa M. Sabitoni, the LHSFNA’s Executive Director. “We’ll miss having them around the office, but wish them all the best in their well-deserved next chapter and in all they take on.”
As a young man, Patrick worked in the oil fields of Texas, and that hard, hands-on job made him understand the type of work LIUNA members do every day. Patrick started at the Fund in 1999, at the time when the LHSFNA itself and its Accounting department was still relatively new. He brought a stability and eye for detail to the position that would serve him well throughout his career.
Trusted for his shrewd judgment and easy to be around thanks to his friendly demeanor, Patrick soon became a pivotal member of the Fund’s staff.
“It’s been such a great place to work over the years,” said Patrick. “That made it easy to come to work every day, and we had a lot of fun too. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
In his retirement, Patrick and his wife have moved back to his native state of Texas. Patrick plans on raising livestock, including goats and cattle, on a parcel of land south of Galveston in the state’s Coastal Bend.
With Patrick retiring, Maren Kench has been promoted to the Fund’s newest Director of Accounting.
Walter Jones started at the Fund in 2002 as a Senior Safety & Health Specialist. During his career at the Fund, Walter became a certified industrial hygienist (CIH) and was an active member of both the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).
“[Former Executive Director] Joe Fowler and then Lisa supported my career beyond anything I could’ve asked for,” said Walter. “I’m so grateful for that, the opportunities I’ve had and the people I’ve met along the way.”
During his tenure, Walter also served as a member of OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety & Health (ACCSH). There he chaired the silica subcommittee and played a key role in developing the task-based recommendations that would later become the basis for Table 1 in OSHA’s silica standard.
“We advocated for practical controls that would better protect workers and that contractors could support as well,” said Walter. “We took a similar approach with noise, emphasizing task-based controls over sampling, which was different from how ANSI and OSHA were thinking about them at the time.”
Throughout his career at the Fund, Walter was known as a pragmatic coalition builder who would always let the science and the facts guide his advocacy. Those qualities made him a natural fit to lead the NABTU Safety & Health Committee, which he was appointed to chair in 2017.
“I was fortunate to have great mentors who taught me to follow the science and let everything else fall into place,” said Walter. “And most importantly, when the science changes, you have to change with it.”
Over the last few decades, both the fatality rate and the injury and illness rate for construction laborers have declined significantly. Effective controls and safety measures now exist for all major physical hazards on construction jobsites – it’s a matter of implementing them across all workplaces. So what’s the next frontier for occupational safety and health?
“Much of today’s culture change in construction is being driven by public health issues,” said Walter. “We’ve got to dispense with the idea that workers are going to show up perfect. Our job is to ask how we can make the job safe no matter the person. How can we fit all workers in the construction workplace and protect them?”
In retirement, Walter plans to split his time between Washington, DC, and a house near the beach on the Caribbean island of Tobago.
With Walter retiring, Travis Parsons, the Fund’s longtime OSH Associate Director, will now serve as the Fund’s OSH Director.
The entire staff of the LHSFNA wishes both Patrick and Walter a safe, healthy and enjoyable retirement.