TNEC offers free trainings on COVID-19 worker safety

The New England Consortium (TNEC), a model UMass Lowell-based hazardous waste worker health and safety training institute and emergency response, hosted its first two-hour workshop on April 9 by interactive videoconference.
Now, the free workshops can be booked quickly, according to David Turcotte, professor and researcher in economics, who is also the principal investigator at TNEC.

“We had a great response. All other April workouts are sold out, ”said Turcotte.

The workshops cover the basics of COVID-19 and how it is transmitted; how to assess the risk of exposure and infection; different ways of controlling the working environment to minimize these risks; Update to OSHA guidelines that apply specifically to COVID-19; and workers’ rights, including the right to receive personal protective equipment and to be instructed in how to use it.

The workshops are facilitated by trainers from TNEC and other members of the consortium. All stressed the critical importance of immediately granting sick leave to sick or quarantined employees.

“Requirements for a doctor’s note should be relaxed right now because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is asking people to stay home and not to go to a hospital or doctor’s office if they have mild symptoms, “said Patricia, trainer at TNEC. Strizak.

The first training was attended by occupational health and safety officials, union representatives, workers and supervisors. One of them was Alan Arrajj, a superintendent of construction project management based in the Boston office of Avison Young, an international real estate services company.

“I generally have 10 to 40 subcontractors on my site. Everyone has their own tools and are responsible for their own safety, but I am responsible for the general safety of the site, ”said Arrajj.

Although most of his company’s construction sites are now closed – Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has ordered all non-essential construction to be stopped – Arrajj said he is using the closure to have all heavy machinery and equipment cleaned. work areas. He also pushed for better bathrooms, more hand washing stations and a separate decontamination area that all workers can use.

“I feel very lucky to be able to take this training so that I can reinforce what needs to be done and what we are doing,” he said.

Erika Pouliot, director of environmental health and safety for High Liner Foods, a frozen seafood company based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire that is considered a critical business, said her business already has strong health and safety protocols for food and employees at its facilities across North America. , including frequent hand washing for workers and frequent disinfection of all work surfaces.

Now, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve added even more, including disinfection procedures for frequently touched items like radios and clocks. But decontamination is just the start.

“We are organizing staggered breaks and we have opened two additional break rooms so that each worker can sit at their own table for lunch. We have eliminated visitors and vendors, and drivers cannot enter factories, ”she said. “We also try to space workers on the floor as much as possible.”

High Liner Foods is also trying to obtain personal protective equipment for workers, including disposable masks, as homemade fabric face covers are not suitable for use in food processing plants, he said. she declared.

Pouliot and others received advice on sourcing and reusing personal protective equipment (PPE) from David Coffey, training manager for TNEC, who led the COVID-19 safety workshop. He recognized the difficulty essential employers face in their efforts to obtain adequate PPE.
“Not having enough PPE is a huge risk to workers,” Coffey said. “I wouldn’t have thought a year ago to reuse PPE, but now there is CDC advice for that.”
The virtual training program was developed by the NIEHS under emergency legislation that included funding for government agencies to combat the spread of COVID-19. TNEC is one of several NIEHS funded organizations across the country selected and trained to provide the interactive discussion-based workshops. There is also self-guided online version for first responders.
TNEC offers the free workshops on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and is now working on planning more in May. TNEC can also customize training for individual employers and their specific needs upon request, said Turcotte and Coffey.