$8 Million Awarded to UC-Led Hazardous Waste Training Program
The University of Cincinnati environmental health department has received $8 million from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to operate its hazardous waste worker training program through 2010.
The money will go to the department’s Midwest Consortium for Hazardous Waste Worker Training, a collaboration between UC, Greater Cincinnati Occupational Health Center, Ohio Environmental Council, eight state universities and technical colleges, and a group of organizations dedicated to improving environmental safety and health in the community.
Directed by Carol Rice, PhD, UC professor of environmental health, the consortium is responsible for developing and evaluating training and education programs for hazardous waste workers and emergency responders in nine states—Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. The collaborative trains in a region that employs 20 percent of all hazardous waste workers and emergency responders in the United States.
The UC-led training program, established in 1987, teaches emergency responders, waste site workers and medical professionals proper handling and clean-up procedures for hazardous material waste sites. Training sessions are tailored to address a specific audience, but often include critical topics such as site decontamination, spill containment, on-site record keeping and emergency notification protocols.
Consortium trainers also take participants through “what would you do?” role-playing scenarios to help site managers identify inadequate procedures and work to fix them.
“We know this program is making the workplace safer,” says Dr. Rice, “because 85 percent of the emergency responders and 63 percent of the site workers we train report changing their day-to-day behavior to improve safety.”
All hazardous waste material handlers are required by federal law to complete a specific number of training hours annually. In 2005, the Midwest Consortium provided more than 109,000 training hours to more than 21,000 people.
“Training and education are important ways to protect the health and safety of workers involved in the nation’s emergency response and hazardous waste clean-up,” says Dr. Rice. “Recent natural disasters—and the corresponding lack of disaster preparedness—have further reinforced the importance of a highly skilled workforce, capable of responding to and containing hazardous materials.”
UC’s program is one of only 18 NIEHS-funded hazardous waste worker training programs in the United States, all of which are designed to reduce workers’ exposure to hazardous materials and the risk of life-threatening injuries.