OSHA Includes Better Respiratory Protection in Disaster Site Course

Improved training for workers appears to be one of the key areas OSHA is addressing in order to prepare for a possible terrorist attack. Better education, particularly with respect to the use of respiratory protection, also seems to be one of the most important lessons the agency learned from its response to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC).

Cathy Cronin, who works in OSHA's Office of Training and Education, delivered this message April 22 during a technical conference entitled "Training Partnerships for Prevention, Protection and Preparedness" put on by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' (NIEHS) Worker Education and Training Program (WETP). Attendees at the conference, held from April 21-23 in Washington, DC, also heard from officials who work at the Department of Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fire Department Safety Officers Association, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, and the Seattle Fire Dept.

Cronin said OSHA would roll out its new 16-hour disaster site worker course by the end of May, and explained that it will differ from courses currently offered by the agency, which generally do not contain skill-training components.

"In looking at some of the lessons learned from the WTC episode, we really wanted to have some hands-on demonstrations," she explained. "One of the primary areas where we found a need for training was in respiratory protection."

Cronin said the agency decided it would focus on preparing workers not just for weapons of mass destruction or a terrorist event, but rather designed its course as an "all-hazards program."

In order to encourage workers to take advantage of OSHA's various emergency response training programs the agency is preparing a recognition program and will issue cards to workers who complete its training courses.

"Our office will issue a card to those workers who take OSHA's 10-hour construction course, our new 16-hour disaster site course, and the 'HAZWOPER' training," said Cronin. HAZWOPER refers to OSHA's hazardous waste operations and emergency response standard (1910.120).

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