New England Consortium Lands 7.6 Million Grant

UMass Lowell Environmental Worker Health and Safety Project Receives $7,635, 459 NIEHS Grants to Address Hazardous Materials and Climate Change Concerns Over Five Years. This project is a part of the Climate Change Initiative.

UMass Lowell’s longstanding hazardous waste worker/emergency responded health and safety training program submitted a successful competitive proposal for 5 years of funding. The National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences has awarded the program “The New England Consortium-Civil Service Employees Association (TNEC-CSEA)” $1,384,192 for the project year August 1, 2015 – July 31, 2016. The total award for the five years is $7,635, 459 through to July 31, 2020. TNEC-CSEA is based in UMass Lowell’s College of Health Sciences’, Department of Community Health and Sustainability, and is a working project within UML’s Climate Change Initiative.

Professor Craig Slatin and Project Director Paul Morse are the Principal Investigator and co-Principal Investigator. TNEC-CSEA member organizations include the University of Massachusetts Lowell (lead organization), the Coalitions for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH groups) from Massachusetts (MassCOSH and Western MassCOSH), Rhode Island (RICOSH), Connecticut (ConnectiCOSH), and New Hampshire (NHCOSH). The Civil Service Employees Association of NY State (CSEA), Local 1000 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has been a strong consortium member since 2010.

The new award includes two grants: $1,208,000 for the consortium’s longstanding Hazardous Waste Worker Training Program, and $176,192 for a new Hazmat Disaster Preparedness Training Program. In 2014 and 2015, the consortium was awarded supplemental funding to provide training to CSEA members who are public sector workers who work for state agencies, counties, and municipalities of New York. The training was specifically for workers who had participated in response and recovery efforts related to Superstorm Sandy in the Fall of 2012, as well as workers who likely would be engaged in similar activities related to future extreme weather events and other disaster scenarios. The success of that project laid the foundation for TNEC-CSEA’s awarded Hazmat Disaster Preparedness proposal.

The Hazmat Disaster Preparedness Training Program (HDPTP) intends to train 1000 CSEA members annually. These workers will serve as skilled disaster support personnel working for state, county, and municipal governments in General Operations, Transportation, and Sanitation/Landfill. They also include Health Care, University, and Public School District Employees.  These are workers in the building trades, and those who perform bridge repair, highway maintenance, mechanic/equipment maintenance, parks and grounds maintenance, and building maintenance and janitorial titles. This will build the capacity of public employers’ to provide H&S information and training to affected public employees prior to responding to a severe weather event or other natural or human-caused disaster that affects the public infrastructure.

Sanitation workers will be a major emphasis of the training program. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, TNEC-CSEA discovered that these workers were exposed to hazardous conditions as they engaged in post-Sandy clean-up work. The work extended for long periods of time. Sanitation workers were exposed to hazardous materials for months as home owners and local businesses disposed of property and building materials destroyed by flood waters. These materials were often covered with flood muck and with mold, presenting the risk of both hazardous chemical and biological exposures.

The HDPTP includes  a pilot project that will be led by UML’s consortium partner, MassCOSH, which has a workers center that advocates for immigrant worker rights and protection. This will be a capacity building project for a Worker Center  network in Massachusetts and Rhode Island that can provide hazmat disaster preparedness health and safety awareness training (muck and gut and mold after flooding) in Spanish and Portuguese for Latino and Brazilian immigrant workers. This also will be a train the trainer model, and worker center staff members will be trained and mentored as they train at least 40 immigrant laborers annually. This worker center network will collaborate with similar worker center networks in New York to establish representation for immigrant communities in regional disaster planning efforts.

All of these efforts will extend TNEC-CSEA’s existing readiness to immediately respond to disaster-related hazardous waste operations workers’ and emergency responders’ health and safety training needs in the New England/New York regions, as well as any declared national disaster areas for which NIEHS-funded training program personnel are assigned.

These are the highlights of the programs that TNEC-CSEA will conduct with this new five-year training grant. The overall program builds on 28 years of continuous operation and national leadership in the area of HAZWOPER worker health and safety training. The new emphases on preparing public sector and immigrant workers for conditions that are resulting from climate change related extreme weather events helps to advance UMass Lowell’s CCI’s strategic positioning as a regional and national leader.