Bureau Of National Affairs

Thursday, December 20, 2001

 

News

 

Training

 

LIUNA Gets DOL Grant to Create Training Course on Biohazard Cleanup

 

Responding to the anthrax attacks of recent months, the Department of Labor awarded a $208,650 grant for the development of a course to train workers on the safe removal of biological hazards, the department announced Dec. 19.

 

"We all hope we will never see anthrax sent through the mail again. But events of the last two months have taught us that we need to be prepared to address this potential threat," John Henshaw, administrator of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said at a press conference to announce the grant.

 

With the funding, the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA ) will develop an eight-hour training module to add to its existing 80-hour hazardous waste remediation course, said Terence O'Sullivan, general president of LIUNA.

 

Providing the training will increase the number of workers capable of responding to and cleaning up any future biohazard attacks, according to LIUNA.

 

"For the general public, the sense that they should get out of this is that when there is a problem, there is a trained workforce to address it," O'Sullivan said.

 

"We do hazardous waste training, but anthrax is a new hazard for us as a country and development of this curriculum is absolutely critical," he said. "What has been missing is a workforce that knows how to work in that environment. That's what this partnership is all about--taking the next step," he said.

 

"Within weeks, the material will be developed and tested. Shortly thereafter it will be available for use," O'Sullivan said.

 

The grant is awarded to the Laborers-AGC Education and Training Fund, a labor-management partnership between the union and the Associated General Contractors of America. It was made through the Employment Training Administration of the Department of Labor.

 

Laborers will take the training first and then the curriculum will be shared with other organizations, including the 12 OSHA Training Institute Education Centers, officials said. The training will include manuals, CD-ROM and World Wide Web-based materials, a PowerPoint presentation, and other training tools, OSHA said.

 

Workplace Exposure

 

Most of the dozen sites that have been contaminated with anthrax are workplaces and most of the victims were exposed through their work, Henshaw said.

 

At the press conference, two LIUNA members were on hand to demonstrate what the highest level of worker protection for handling biohazards looks like. The workers were wearing brightly colored rubber suits, rubber gloves, boots, and a 25-pound, self-contained breathing apparatus.

 

The workers are "prepared for anything" in the Level A suits, Henshaw said.

 

O'Sullivan said that hazardous waste removal is among the fastest-growing sectors of LIUNA membership. Once trained, union members work at asbestos and mold remediation sites, nuclear weapons plants, and superfund cleanup sites. Workers now are decontaminating the remaining anthrax from the Brentwood postal facility in Washington, D.C., union officials said.

 

Copyright © 2001 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Washington D.C.


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