February 09, 2018

Week 12: Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2018 in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Specialized Emergency Response Trainers (SERTs) Marybeth Potter of United Steelworkers Local Union 1-689 and Eddie Sharpe of USW Local 9-1441 deployed to the U.S. Virgin Islands this week to begin outreach and access training needs. On Monday the SERTs met with representatives from All Hands and Hearts and AmeriCorps, who are working together on a mold remediation project. The team has approximately 160 homes in line for remediation.

The SERTs were able to connect with more volunteer members of All Hands and Hearts to assess the potential hazards and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE). The volunteers were using N100 respirators but were provided gloves and Tyvek. The AmeriCorps volunteers were already in use of Tyvek, as its use is 100 percent required.

“There is potential to provide training to volunteers once a week,” Potter said.

The possible training discussed includes mold remediation, and physical and chemical hazard awareness.

On Tuesday morning the SERTs traveled to Catholic Church housing via All Hands and Hearts. They gathered with team leaders and talked with volunteers.

“There were several crews that go to different locations for muck and gut, and one sanitation crew,” Potter said. “We went with a group of 15-20 consisting of All Hands and Hearts and AmeriCorps [volunteers].”

Potter explained that one volunteer voiced concern about asbestos exposure, so she and Sharpe described the different forms and where it may be found.

“Eddie and I were given eye protection, half-faced respirators, hard hats and work gloves,” Potter said.

“Hard hats and eye protection were the only mandatory PPE,” Potter said. “Some workers donned their half-faced respirators, all workers wore work gloves, hard hats, eye protection and some form of work boots.”

Potter and Sharpe identified a list of obvious hazards including falling from unprotected edges, trip hazards, exposed electrical wiring, concrete and other rubble, mold on drywall , unstable structures, a split in a support board, puncture wounds and lacerations from nails and sharp edges, heat stress, and musculoskeletal/ergonomic hazards.

The SERTs made it a priority to discuss making a safety checklist with the team leaders. They also talked about the potential for training in basic hazard mapping, OSHA 7600, respirator fitting and requirements, silicosis and asbestos, and heat stress.

Potter and Sharpe concluded their day by making contact with Jerry Jackson, USW District 9 staff representative.

The SERTs continued gathering research and materials to provide the two volunteer organizations to promote health and safety while cleaning and rebuilding on Wednesday. The materials include fact sheets and other information from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). After completing this task, Potter and Sharpe spoke to residents about their experience during the hurricane. They found months later, some are still without basic needs such as electricity. Residents are also dealing with wage cuts and suffering from illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Most of the day Thursday was spent visiting damaged areas.

“There are still many power lines down, washed away roads and many homes with blue tarps being used to provide some type of protection from the weather,” Sharpe said.

The SERTs then convened with USW District 9 Staff Representative Jerry Jackson, Orville Crossley of USW Local Union 8713, Sheryl Parris and Cheryl Hart of Local 8249, and Athenia Williams-Smith of Local 8488 about hazards the members face and training opportunities.

Potter and Sharpe spent Friday and Saturday building hazard mapping examples for members of the All Hands and Hearts organization. They also gathered PowerPoint presentations that focused on hazard identification and the hierarchy of controls. The SERTs approached a local FEMA crew and were able to make additional contacts. Another meeting with Staff Representative Jackson was scheduled in order to identify training needs. Local union presidents shared that they are facing hazardous working conditions like working in buildings with severe mold, and contracting respiratory illness due to exposure.

Category Archive

Monthly Archive