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Environmental Factor, May 2012

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WETP convenes its sixth National Trainers’ Exchange

By Ryan Campbell

Timothy Koegel leading attendees in exercises

If attendees were expecting to sit comfortably as Koegel, center, talked about his book, “The Exceptional Presenter,” they were in for a surprise when he led them in exercises for engaging training participants. (Photo courtesy of Ted Outwater)

Chip Booth

Attendee Chip Booth, center, loosened up during an effective gestures exercise led by Aaron Ondo. (Photo courtesy of Ted Outwater)

Nearly 250 trainers from the About WTP met March 28-29 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to improve training methods and exchange ideas on effective health and safety training for emergency response workers. The sixth annual National Trainers’ Exchange, titled “Training Today for a Safer Tomorrow,” gave trainers an opportunity to discuss new technologies and best practices as well as identify challenges to effective training. 


NIEHS WTP director Chip Hughes welcomed trainers and awardees to the Exchange, and spoke about the vital role of trainers to ensure proper training and convey safety information to workers. Hughes introduced keynote speaker and New York Times best-selling author Timothy Koegel, who instructed trainers on how to make commanding presentations in a training environment. Koegel empowered trainers to engage audiences, learn effective techniques, and use gestures to enhance presentations.

Trainers practiced the recommendations in small groups, to prepare for presentations during the Exchanges’ concurrent breakout sessions. The breakout sessions focused on five tracks — advanced training technologies, hazardous waste worker training and emergency response, instructor development, life skills and job training, and training approaches for worker empowerment.

Emergency response scenarios

The Trainers’ Exchange sought to promote regular evaluation of curricula, tools, and instruction, to ensure training experiences maximize learning. An interactive breakout session on tabletop exercises for the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER) training highlighted the importance of effective communication with external response organizations. Gary Yurt, of the non-profit workforce development organization OAI, Inc., instructed trainers on how to use simulation technology to respond to Hazmat scenarios.  

Highway, rail, and facility accident scenarios sequenced events during a timeframe characterized by complex issues that would challenge communication strategies. Accident simulation training is a useful tool that can reveal gaps and inefficiencies in current response plans.    

Mark Catlin, of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Education and Support Fund, presented a session on instructor development and urged attendees to create and utilize videos in the training environment. In his talk, Catlin emphasized, “Old promotional industry films show effective practices and training challenges.” The U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s video channels, the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s vintage videos, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s training and reference materials library were recommended resources for trainers.

The Exchange focused on several themes to convey key messages to new and veteran trainers — independent trainer innovation is a way to keep training methods current; adoption of new technologies, such as mobile applications, should be merged with traditional training techniques; case studies are valuable training and qualitative tools; and participants have different learning styles and training methods should be adjusted accordingly.

Roundtable speakers look ahead   

In one of the concluding sessions of the Exchange, the Training Director’s Roundtable brought together five representatives from labor unions, community and environmental justice organizations, and universities, who addressed safe cleanup methods for hazardous waste, to protect public health. Ebony Turner, from the Dillard University Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, discussed the NIEHS Minority Worker Training Program, which provides job training and life skills to individuals who live near hazardous waste sites or in a community near contaminated properties to enable trainees to get jobs that address environmental hazards in their communities.

Panelists also discussed the evolution of their programs and highlighted milestones and early successes. Going forward, the panel recommended partnering with employers and continuing to document success stories that benefit the economy and save lives.    

 (Ryan Campbell is on the staff of MDB, a contractor for the WETP and NIEHS Superfund Research Program.)

Sharon Beard

WETP Industrial Hygienist Sharon Beard joined participants in a workshop session on “Meeting the Need for Higher Level Mathematics in an Increasingly Technical Workforce.” University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Consortium specialist Allannah Thomas was lead presenter. (Photo courtesy of Ted Outwater)

WETP Program Analyst Jim Remington

WETP Program Analyst Jim Remington made notes about training sessions during a meeting break. The two-day event offered attendees a choice of 56 breakout training sessions on a wide variety of topics. (Photo courtesy of Ted Outwater)

John Hanson, of the Lakeshore Technical College/Midwest Consortium, demonstrates how trainers can capitalize on teachable moments with hands-on visualization exercises.

As part of the session on “Use of Dioramas to Enhance Learning Outcomes,” John Hanson, right, of the Lakeshore Technical College/Midwest Consortium, demonstrates how trainers can capitalize on teachable moments with hands-on visualization exercises to represent disaster response scenarios. (Photo courtesy of Ted Outwater)

Kara French

Kara French, left, of the Center for Construction Research and Training, was the lead presenter for a session on “Teaching Chemical Hazards in the 40-Hour HAZWOPER Class.” (Photo courtesy of Ted Outwater)

Attendees work on an exercise during Mark Catlin's session

University of Cincinnati Professor Carol Rice, Ph.D., left, a specialist in assessment of industrial exposures, works with fellow attendees during an exercise in a session led by Catlin, “Surgical Masks Are Not Respirators: Training to Abolish a Workplace Myth.” (Photo courtesy of Ted Outwater)

Alabama Fire College trainer Ted Krayer

Alabama Fire College trainer Ted Krayer led participants in exercises with different types of measurement devices in the “HAZMAT Air Monitoring Exercise.” (Photo courtesy of Ted Outwater)

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