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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

June 2024

NIEHS Worker Training Program stresses partnership power

30-year collaboration with the Department of Energy continues to pay dividends for worker health and safety.

The NIEHS Worker Training Program (WTP) leverages partnerships to extend its reach training workers to spot and safely manage hazardous substances on the job. Collaborating with federal, state, and local partners increases WTP’s ability to deliver health and safety trainings that protect the environment and preserve workers’ safety and health.

EFCOG TWG meeting participants gather at the Volpentest HAMMER Federal Training Center in Richland, Washington, during the March 19-21 meeting
EFCOG TWG meeting participants gather at the Volpentest HAMMER Federal Training Center in Richland, Washington, during the March 19-21 meeting. (Photo courtesy of WTP)

For example, WTP has a relationship with the Energy Facility Contractors Group (EFCOG), which supports Department of Energy (DOE) missions, that continues to pay dividends for worker safety. Many of these missions involve employees working with or around hazardous materials. WTP interacts specifically with the Training Working Group within EFCOG, which ensures efficient and effective trainings across DOE sites, as both organizations seek to ensure hazardous materials workers receive the best training.

The 2024 EFCOG Training Working Group meeting held in March was a chance for contractors supporting DOE to share best practices in worker training. Regularly networking with EFCOG at the annual meeting ensures that WTP sustains close working relationships with DOE contractors and can reach their employees with essential safety and health trainings.

The DOE’s relationship with its contractors is unique among federal agencies because the contractors run the DOE worksites. This dynamic means it is even more important for WTP to maintain an active presence with DOE contractors to achieve consistency in worker training in the face of workforce additions and turnover.

Collaborating to protect workers and the environment

Sharon Beard
Beard speaks at the EFCOG Training Working Group meeting about the value of partnerships and how to access WTP trainings. (Photo courtesy of WTP)

At the meeting, WTP Director Sharon Beard and representatives from three WTP grant recipients — the United Steelworkers Tony Mazzocchi Center (USWTMC), CPWR-The Center for Construction Research and Training, and the Partnership for Environmental Technology Education — presented information about WTP’s workforce development and trainer preparation efforts. Their presentations and panel discussions covered how WTP grant recipients have improved workers’ knowledge of hazards and enhanced their commitment to creating safer workplaces, as well as how DOE site managers can access free trainings and support from WTP grant recipients.

“The workers at DOE sites are cleaning up wastes that are hazardous or radioactive or both, such as uranium enrichment byproducts,” said Fiona Galley of USWTMC, who spoke to the EFCOG meeting participants. “It's not only important for the workers that these sites are restored, but it’s important for those fence-line communities and the environment as a whole.”

Fiona Galley
Galley presented about her organization’s efforts to further radiological control technician workforce development. (Photo courtesy of WTP)

“Our mission, specifically with DOE training, is to make workers aware of hazards they may encounter on-site, to make them confident in bringing up these hazards,” Galley explained.

Such training is already having an effect. Galley shared that a Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response refresher course enhanced some workers’ safety mindsets and spurred them to speak up and prevent possible incidents with dangerous substances at one DOE site.

Through the NIEHS-DOE Nuclear Worker Training Program, now celebrating its 30th anniversary, WTP is committed to nurturing collaborations between grant recipients, DOE, EFCOG leadership, and other contractor groups, ensuring consistency and reciprocity of training across DOE sites.

(Lee Cannon is a senior communications specialist for MDB, Inc., a contractor for the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training.)

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