OSHA funds allow UHCL to train companies in heat-exposure prevention

October 25, 2018 | Jim Townsend

OSHA funds allow UHCL to train companies in heat-exposure prevention

High temperatures are dangerous for workers and can lead to injuries, illnesses and death. In 2015, heat exposure resulted in 2,830 occupational injuries across the U.S., the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in latest available data, and Texas led with 340. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, University of Houston-Clear Lake will help area industries prevent future heat-related illnesses and injuries.

OSHA awarded UH-Clear Lake about $114,000 to develop and deliver free training on “Heat Illness Prevention” for construction and general industries throughout the Greater Houston area. “Given the high number and rates of heat-related hospitalizations and fatalities in Houston, these training activities will serve to address a much-needed gap in outreach and worker training,” said UHCL’s Robert Phalen, associate professor of occupational safety and health. Phalen and Magdy Akladios, professor of occupational safety and health, will develop and administer the training program.

The program will target employers with workforces of 250 employees or fewer -- generally small- to medium-sized businesses and contractor companies. Working with the Houston Contractors Association and Gulf Coast Safety Institute, UHCL hopes to reach underserved and minority businesses with trainings in English and Spanish.

Phalen said the program will take a three-tiered approach. The first tier will focus on management and supervisors responsible for developing and implementing in-house heat illness prevention initiatives. The second tier will focus on training both English-speaking and bilingual Spanish-speaking trainers. The third tier will be assisting in the training of workers using site-specific materials and policies. “The combined outcome will result in company-specific policies, interventions and training that will start from the top and progress down to workers, which is a preferred model for effective safety programs,” Phalen said.

The funds come from OSHA’s Susan Harwood Safety and Health Training Grants program, named for the agency’s late director of the Office of Risk Assessment. Recipients include nonprofit and community/faith-based groups, business and trade associations, labor unions, joint labor/management associations, and colleges and universities.

This is UHCL’s second $114,000 Harwood training grant. Akladios and Phalen are also administering a training program aimed at preventing injuries from falls on construction sites. Using a similar three-tiered approach, the program increases awareness among construction employees and employers, and helps companies develop their own capabilities to assess and reduce fall hazards. “We have trained over 250 workers, supervisors and owners and we are still performing trainings in the Houston area,” Phalen said.

Free trainings on fall protection are ongoing through December. For current dates and registration, visit www.eventzilla.net/user/UHCL. The trainings and materials were produced under OSHA grant SH-31228-SH7. It does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Labor, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

For questions about either program, contact Phalen at 281-283-3753 or phalen@uhcl.edu.