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Your Environment. Your Health.

Advancing Health and Safety Training for a Diverse Workforce

John LeConche

April 26, 2019

John LeConche

LeConche, executive director of LIUNA Training, focuses on improving the safety and health of workers.
(Photo courtesy of LIUNA Training and Education Fund)

John J. LeConche has dedicated his career to public health and protecting workers by developing and delivering training to diverse industry sectors. He serves as executive director of LIUNA Training and Education Fund (LIUNA Training), the training arm for the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA). LIUNA Training is funded through a cooperative agreement with the NIEHS Worker Training Program.

Prior to his role with LIUNA Training, LeConche worked in construction where he witnessed numerous preventable deaths due to asbestosis and many serious chemical injuries and third-degree burns. "Workers often face extremely high levels of chemical exposures but are often unaware of the risks," said LeConche. "I know too many people who have died due to the exposures faced on the job, and this has really driven me to help improve worker protections."

This motivation brought LeConche to LIUNA Training, where he has dedicated his career to improving the safety and health of workers, ensuring safe remediation of environmental contamination, and contributing to long-term environmental sustainability. Each year, LIUNA Training provides education and training to thousands of LIUNA members in a wide range of industries, including construction, environmental remediation, government, and others. LeConche and his team strive to adapt their training programs to the most urgent needs to protect workers and communities.

"LIUNA Training continually updates its curricula to reflect evolving needs, striving to address education and training gaps to better protect the workforce," said LeConche.

Infectious Disease Training Addresses Gaps

Over the past few years, LeConche has led the LIUNA Training Infectious Disease Response Training Program (IDRTP), which seeks to develop and deliver infectious disease education and training for workers at risk of contracting infectious diseases on the job.

"After the U.S. Ebola outbreak in 2014, we realized there weren’t sufficient occupational controls in place to prevent the virus from infecting healthy individuals," said LeConche. "So, we pulled back our lens and looked at: What can a worker do to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases on the job, even if you don’t know immediately what the danger is?"

In response, LIUNA Training developed curricula for three IDRTP courses, including a 40-hour Infectious Disease Operations, 4-hour Infectious Disease Awareness, and 8-hour Hazardous Waste Instructor Refresher with Infectious Disease Overview. They also developed an online version of the awareness curriculum to aid workers who face difficulties accessing traditional classroom training. A Spanish version of the online courses are available to promote training more broadly to Hispanic populations.

LIUNA Training seeks to deliver these courses to a wide range of workers including those involved in emergency response, environmental remediation, sanitation, and construction, as well as National Guard personnel and environmental service workers at hospitals and health care facilities. The course curricula are tailored to suit the needs of specific audiences. For instance, training for National Guard personnel focuses on how to protect oneself from potentially hazardous situations when called to duty; training for construction craft laborers emphasizes how to conduct cleanup, decontamination, and disinfection activities following an infectious disease incident.

According to surveys and feedback from trainees, the LIUNA Training IDRTP effectively increases awareness and builds practical skills to respond safely to infectious disease situations. According to survey assessments, trainees demonstrated improved knowledge after completing courses. Average scores rose from 50 percent on the pre-test to 93 percent on the post-test. Trainees also reported that courses helped them become more aware of their surroundings and the hazards of chemicals, airborne pathogens, and other contaminants they may come into contact with.

"Our training program seeks to cultivate skills, lessons, and training, but it’s also about self-empowerment," said LeConche. "We want to empower the workforce with knowledge and information, so they take action when facing hazards and infectious agents on the job."

Training Receives Prestigious Accreditation

John LeConche talking to someone sitting down

  LeConche works with an instructor at LIUNA’s Annual Instructor Conference.
(Photo courtesy of LIUNA Training and Education Fund)

Notably, LIUNA Training has earned accreditation from the internationally-recognized American National Standards Institute (ANSI). To gain accreditation from the ANSI, organizations must undergo a comprehensive assessment and on-site assessment by ANSI experts and administrators. ANSI accreditation adds value to instructor certification by signifying that the instructor has completed a prescribed course of study designed to meet industry requirements.

"This certification was born out of the partnership with NIEHS and LIUNA Training," said LeConche. "The partnership started to formalize how we approach training, leading us to more closely examine our curriculum and reach for the highest standards."

John LeConche and Harvey Jordan smiling while wearing hard hats

LeConche works with Harvey Jordan, a new LIUNA instructor, during a safety training class at the Ohio Training Center through the American Petroleum Institute/ North America’s Building Trades Unions.
(Photo courtesy of LIUNA Training and Education Fund)

Additionally, LIUNA Training has received the International Accreditation Service (IAS) accreditation. IAS accreditation certifies that the organization’s training in building construction, demolition, environmental remediation, safety and leadership meets the highest standards.

"From the inception of the NIEHS grant, we wanted to exceed the minimum requirements for worker training programs," said LeConche. "This accreditation sets LIUNA Training apart by verifying that we have met, and continue to meet, standards for quality improvement."

Recognizing how effective training makes an impact, LeConche is committed to further advancing LIUNA Training’s work to ensure all workers and communities are protected from harmful exposures. "At the end of the day, it’s about protecting workers and ensuring all workers return home safely," said LeConche.

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