Job Safety Efforts Boosted By Workplace Grants

December 17, 2007
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LANSING — Workplace injuries are bad news for employers as well as employees.

In an effort to head off such bad news, the Department of Labor and Economic Growth (DLEG) is awarding 20 grants to promote worker safety and health.

The education and training grants, totaling $1.035 million, come from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA).

Grants are awarded competitively to nonprofit organizations such as universities, unions and hospitals.

For example, Alpena Community College will use its grant money to provide targeted safety training in the high hazard industries of construction, machinery manufacturing and wood products manufacturing.

And Bay De Noc Community College will focus on sawmills and secondary wood manufacturing, offering on-site training on hazard awareness, personal protection equipment, chain-saw safety and ergonomic practices.

The grants “will help Michigan employers provide a work environment where every worker goes home healthy and whole every day,” said DLEG Director Keith Cooley.

Most of the grants focus on hazard recognition and prevention for high-hazard manufacturing industries and occupations. Others focus on workplace violence and health care.

Kenneth Rosenman, professor of medicine and chief of Michigan State University’s occupational and environmental medicine division, said worker’s compensation costs businesses billions of dollars a year, and that’s not including loss of productivity.

About 150 people die each year in the state from such things as getting run over or falling off scaffolding, Rosenman said.

Altogether, there are roughly 900,000 yearly work-related illnesses and injuries in Michigan, ranging from minor sprains and strains to asbestos poisoning, he said.

John Peck, director of the management and technology service division of MIOSHA, said the training grants have been around since 1974.

Recipients must detail how they will increase the number of employers and employees receiving safety education.

Peck said some initiatives, such as the Parents for Student Safety Employment Standard, are a response to accidents.

After a construction worker was killed on the job, the program was launched to work with high schools to provide construction technology classroom training using the Internet.

Suzy Carter, executive director of the Lansing Area Safety Council, said her group’s $35,000 grant will focus on long-term care facility staff.

About 3,500 workers will be trained from Mount Pleasant to the state’s southern border.

Carter said all the training is done on site and participating facilities can pick training topics, including bloodborne pathogens and tuberculosis awareness, disaster preparedness, ergonomics, slips, trips and falls, and safe lifting of patients.

The classes are about an hour long, and Carter said employees are fortunate to get even that much time “off the floor” away from patients.

Many facilities choose training needs based on past incidents and problems. For example, if there’ve been a lot of slip-and-fall injuries, that facility likely will provide slip-and-fall prevention training, she said.

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