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Environmental Factor, June 2012

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WETP assembles DOE safety and health trainers

By Dusty Russell

Sharon Beard

Beard, right, led several panels that shared new training strategies and best practices with colleagues from throughout the U.S. (Photo courtesy of Jim Remington)

Patricia Aldridge

Patricia Aldridge reported back lessons learned from the front lines after a small group activity. Aldridge is the training manager for the Hazardous Materials Management and Emergency Response Mission Support Alliance in Hanford, Wash. (Photo courtesy of Jim Remington)

The NIEHS Worker Education and Training Program (WETP) hosted a National Trainers' Exchange May 7-8 in Knoxville, Tenn., for safety and health trainers funded under its U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Nuclear Worker Training Program. More than 100 hazardous material (HAZMAT) and radiation (RAD) safety and health trainers, who are responsible for annually training some 35,000 workers engaging in environmental restoration activities at DOE nuclear weapons sites, came together to share best practices and new techniques, to increase training effectiveness across the DOE complex through a series of workshops conducted by the trainers themselves.

WETP Public Health Educator Ted Outwater opened the meeting by noting the importance of the partnership between NIEHS and DOE in achieving the goal of a safer HAZMAT and RAD workforce at DOE sites. “We recognize the valuable contributions of effective trainers to this goal,” he said. “NIEHS wants to encourage an ongoing dialogue, to address the persisting challenges to ensuring DOE worker safety through mechanisms such as the Trainers’ Exchange.”

Trainers from the eight consortia, funded by NIEHS through the DOE Nuclear Worker Training Program, led four workshops — advanced training technologies, instructor development, training challenges, and technical updates.

Instructor development workshops provided up-to-date information about recent changes in training requirements, and other pertinent trends and issues related to safety training at DOE sites. Significant attention was allotted to discussions and exercises related to hazard identification, systems of safety, the hierarchy of prevention and control, and strategic preventative measures to address areas of concern.

In the closing segment of the meeting, attendees expressed their appreciation to NIEHS for hosting the event. Trainers noted that, while the challenges continue, they felt more empowered and encouraged in their goal to improve their safety programs. As WETP Industrial Hygienist Sharon Beard commented in closing the workshop, “There is clearly no shortage of innovation among us, and together we can exponentially improve worker safety across the DOE complex.”

Participating organizations included the International Union of Operating Engineers, Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) Training and Education Fund, International Chemical Workers Union (ICWU), United Steelworkers (USW), International Association of Fire Fighters, Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the Community College Consortium for Health and Safety Training under the National Partnership for Environmental Technology Education (PETE).

(Dusty Russell is a public health specialist with MDB, Inc., a contractor for WETP.)

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