WETP convenes its sixth National Trainers’ Exchange
By Ryan Campbell
Nearly 250 trainers from the NIEHS Worker Education and Training Program (WETP) (http://tools.niehs.nih.gov/wetp/) met March 28-29 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to improve training methods and exchange ideas on effective health and safety training for emergency response workers. The sixth annual National Trainers’ Exchange, titled “Training Today for a Safer Tomorrow,” gave trainers an opportunity to discuss new technologies and best practices as well as identify challenges to effective training.
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NIEHS WETP director Chip Hughes welcomed trainers and awardees to the Exchange, and spoke about the vital role of trainers to ensure proper training and convey safety information to workers. Hughes introduced keynote speaker and New York Times best-selling author Timothy Koegel, who instructed trainers on how to make commanding presentations in a training environment. Koegel empowered trainers to engage audiences, learn effective techniques, and use gestures to enhance presentations.
Trainers practiced the recommendations in small groups, to prepare for presentations during the Exchanges’ concurrent breakout sessions. The breakout sessions focused on five tracks — advanced training technologies, hazardous waste worker training and emergency response, instructor development, life skills and job training, and training approaches for worker empowerment.
Emergency response scenarios
The Trainers’ Exchange sought to promote regular evaluation of curricula, tools, and instruction, to ensure training experiences maximize learning. An interactive breakout session on tabletop exercises for the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER) training highlighted the importance of effective communication with external response organizations. Gary Yurt, of the non-profit workforce development organization OAI, Inc., instructed trainers on how to use simulation technology to respond to Hazmat scenarios.
Highway, rail, and facility accident scenarios sequenced events during a timeframe characterized by complex issues that would challenge communication strategies. Accident simulation training is a useful tool that can reveal gaps and inefficiencies in current response plans.
Mark Catlin, of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Education and Support Fund, presented a session on instructor development and urged attendees to create and utilize videos in the training environment. In his talk, Catlin emphasized, “Old promotional industry films show effective practices and training challenges.” The U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s video channels, the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s vintage videos, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s training and reference materials library were recommended resources for trainers.
The Exchange focused on several themes to convey key messages to new and veteran trainers — independent trainer innovation is a way to keep training methods current; adoption of new technologies, such as mobile applications, should be merged with traditional training techniques; case studies are valuable training and qualitative tools; and participants have different learning styles and training methods should be adjusted accordingly.
Roundtable speakers look ahead
In one of the concluding sessions of the Exchange, the Training Director’s Roundtable brought together five representatives from labor unions, community and environmental justice organizations, and universities, who addressed safe cleanup methods for hazardous waste, to protect public health. Ebony Turner, from the Dillard University Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, discussed the NIEHS Minority Worker Training Program, which provides job training and life skills to individuals who live near hazardous waste sites or in a community near contaminated properties to enable trainees to get jobs that address environmental hazards in their communities.
Panelists also discussed the evolution of their programs and highlighted milestones and early successes. Going forward, the panel recommended partnering with employers and continuing to document success stories that benefit the economy and save lives.
Additional information on the breakout sessions can be found online. (http://tools.niehs.nih.gov/wetp/events.cfm?id=2510)
(Ryan Campbell is on the staff of MDB, a contractor for the WETP and NIEHS Superfund Research Program.)