Mike Gelskey /CEO / Lift-It Manufacturing
Mike Gelskey, CEO at Lift-It Manufacturing, began his career in the rigging business 40 years ago. At 17, he worked in a sling shop as a fabricator. “Earning 25 cents more an hour and weekends off, I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” Gelskey says. In 1979, at 24, he applied for a $300,000 loan to start Lift-It.
Unfortunately, no bank would loan money to a 24-year-old, so the venture was privately funded. “I never looked back, and I never doubted myself,” he says. He did work a lot, however – up to 90 hours a week.
In 1981, a distributor invited Gelskey to present a sling safety class to a group of engineers. It became apparent to him, long before safety training was absolutely essential, that slings, if used improperly, could hurt, maim, and kill. Gelskey began presenting at his expense to encourage best safety practices.
“My goal is take students on an interesting journey whereby I transfer knowledge and skills to improve safety and performance by instilling an aversion to dangerous behavior,” Gelskey says. “We present on-site training to groups of three to 300.”
Gelskey’s goal is to establish that taking proper precautions to be safe at work is important. He tells real stories of rigging gone wrong that usually end with a casualty. One such story is an accident in New York that killed seven people – all because of four old slings that should have been replaced – and for only $200.
“All I care about is the seven families that have kitchen tables with an empty chair,” he says. “Little things like using sling protection or not backing of a quarter turn on a shackle pin make a big difference in the lives of the men and women who use rigging products.”