AFGE is collaborating with the International Chemical Workers Union Council (ICWUC) on health and safety training, including disaster response classes, to help AFGE locals build capacity and resolve health and safety issues at the local level.
AFGE is one of the six unions that are partners of the ICWUC Center for Worker Health and Safety Education, a consortium that has received grants from the National Institute for Environmental Health and Safety (NIEHS), Department of Transportation, and Department of Energy to fund health and safety training.
Under this program, the unions could get funding to do training for their own members, whether by sending members to classes taught by the center or having center instructors come to them. Locals will then train individuals at their local unions.
“The idea is for the union at the local level to have resources to learn the rules and laws on health and safety so they are able to fix their problems,” said AFGE Health and Safety Specialist Milly Rodriguez, who is AFGE’s coordinator for the program.
The costs of these classes can be as much as $1,000, but AFGE members can get them at no cost through this program. The grant also covers transportation and accommodations for AFGE members who travel to receive training.
The center’s instructors have had trainings at the National Veterans Affairs Council’s health and safety training, PORT training, and Women and Fair Practices’ human rights training. At these events, we let members know about the training opportunity and how they can sign up if they’re interested.
Locals can also identify someone to be their health and safety representative. An AFGE local health and safety representative doesn’t have to know everything about the topic already, as AFGE will provide training to get them up to speed.
“These opportunities for health and safety training and train-the-trainer programs are available to AFGE members as part of our consortium,” said Rodriguez. “AFGE has one member – Patricia Moore – who went through the training, became a peer trainer, and then got hired by the center as an instructor after she retired from the VA. She is now our liaison to the program. We have others who have gone through the train-the-trainer program and can help as trainers in presenting center classes.”
Disaster response class
The center also offers the Disaster Response class a few times a year. Due to the severity of the recent hurricane season, they may add more training classes if locals being hit by the storms need them.
In Puerto Rico, for example, they’re setting up a process to train workers who have to go in and do clean up or return to the worksites. Employees often don’t know what they should ask for, what needs to happen, and what their agency needs to do before allowing them to return to a building that is flooded, for example. This training can help arm workers with the information they need to keep each other safe.
NIEHS also produces booklets on handling clean up after a hurricane or other disaster. You can find their materials below:
NIEHS Information on Hurricanes and Floods:
Fact sheet on Urban Flooding:
OSHA has resources to help keep workers safe before, during and after a hurricane.