The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is awarding more than $6.7 million in grants to 37 nonprofit organizations and universities nationwide, including the Georgia Institute of Technology.
The grants will be used to fund education and training programs to help workers and employers recognize infectious diseases, including the novel coronavirus health hazards, and identify preventive measures for a safe workplace. In addition to hazard control, the training will include understanding workers’ rights and employer responsibilities under the OSHA Act of 1970.
Georgia Tech’s award will provide 1-hour and 6.5-hour Covid-19 training sessions to 475 employers and workers in the long-term healthcare and mortuary industries, through its Safety, Health, and Environmental Services (SHES) program. The SHES training will focus on infectious disease awareness and prevention. Existing materials will be used, and the training will be conducted in English and Spanish.
Sean Castillo, a SHES industrial hygienist, will lead the project for Georgia Tech. Additionally, SHES will collaborate with University of Georgia professor Toni Miles to integrate stress management and bereavement skills and training materials to provide this work-group population the tools necessary to address the health implications of grief.
“We are thankful to be included in this OSHA funding to advance awareness and understanding of disease risk and measures to take to mitigate exposure,” said SHES Director, Paul Schlumper. “A healthy and safe Georgia workplace environment is essential for employers and employees alike. This funding will be a critical part of our efforts in our continuous fight against the pandemic.”
An offering of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s economic development arm, SHES provides a broad range of occupational safety and health training, consulting services, and academic education to organizations in Georgia and the Southeast. In 2020, the SHES group helped employers remove nearly 36,000 workers from workplace hazards. SHES staff also identified nearly 1,500 workplace hazards in 2020.
The OSHA award includes “Workplace Safety and Health Training on Infectious Diseases, including the novel coronavirus” grants funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The grants derive from the Susan Harwood Workplace Safety and Health Training program, named in honor of the late Susan Harwood, former director of OSHA’s Office of Risk Assessment. In her 17-year OSHA career, she helped develop federal standards to protect workers from bloodborne pathogens, cotton dust, benzene, formaldehyde, asbestos, and lead in construction.
The program funds grants made available to nonprofit organizations, including community and faith-based groups, employer associations, labor unions, joint labor-management associations, colleges, and universities. Target trainees include small-business employers and underserved vulnerable workers in high-hazard industries. These grants are a critical element in supporting OSHA’s role in educating workers on their rights and assisting employers with providing safe workplaces.