New England Consortium Receives New Funding to Safeguard Workers

By Craig Slatin

The U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) recently awarded supplemental funding for The New England Consortium-Civil Service Employee Association (TNEC-CSEA). TNEC-CSEA operates a worker health and safety training program for workers engaged in hazardous waste operations and hazardous materials emergency response. It is based at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and has six partnering organizations throughout New England and New York.  These supplemental funds will expand the consortium’s two core projects: its Hazardous Waste Worker Training Program (HWWTP) and its Hazmat (Hazardous Materials) Disaster Preparedness Training Program (HDPTP).

The supplemental funding will support training for workers who are likely to become engaged in activities following an extreme weather event that has resulted in disaster scenarios. NIEHS sought proposals that would address the health and safety needs of workers who will face conditions that result from climate change related disasters. The first project will enable TNEC-CSEA to expand its Latino-Brazilian HazMat Disaster Preparedness Training initiative. This is a collaboration with the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) and four other immigrant worker centers in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The initiative has prepared bilingual trainers from each of the worker centers to provide this disaster preparedness health and safety training in either Spanish or Portuguese to immigrant workers likely to be hired for disaster recovery, clean up and rebuilding efforts after an extreme weather event.

The second project supports three partnerships for training public sector employees in Massachusetts who work for government agencies with limited budgets to pay for workers to receive the training.  The partnerships include the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association (MIIA), the Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists (MOSES) and the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 6 ALF-CIO.  Each of these partners will collaborate with TNEC-CSEA to deliver Post Disaster Response Health and Safety Training to municipal and state workers.

The final project is supporting the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) of New York State (Local 1000 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) to expand and evaluate its implementation of e-learning tools for its Hazmat Disaster Preparedness training for municipal sanitation workers and a range of other municipal, county, and state employees. The training helps CSEA members and their employers build resilience for disaster response and recovery. TNEC-CSEA secured HDPTP funds in 2015 following its successful training of workers following the devastation resulting from Hurricane Sandy. CSEA established an e-learning platform using Moodle to provide ready access to health and safety resources for its statewide (NY) network or peer-trainers (workers and supervisors from each participating facility).  CSEA seeks to evaluate the integration of e-learning tools into disaster site worker preparedness training.

Since Hurricane Sandy, TNEC-CSEA has learned a great deal about the hazards public sector workers face responding to and cleaning up after extreme weather disasters.  These storms usually lead to spills, leaks, and spreading of hazardous materials, infectious agents, dangerous objects, and other exposures that threaten workers’ health and safety. TNEC-CSEA prepares workers and their employers with evidence-based information, opportunities to practice and become ready to act, and the capacity to include the proper equipment and tools in disaster planning activities.

CSEA recently announced the launch of their first app, The Clean Up Safety Pocket Guide, originally created as a handbook.  Due to the severe weather patterns and flooding in Baton Rouge and the weather related disasters in Wisconsin and Iowa CSEA moved up the launch of the app.  This free app is available on ITunes and Google Play store.