An innovative approach to hazard communication training

Michelle Dean, Environmental Inspector
George Goodale, Administrative Officer
Gailla Rogers, EQWIP Administrator
Public Works Department
City of Kansas City, Missouri

Field employees from the Street and Traffic Division of the Kansas City, Missouri, Public Works Department, have implemented a computerized training program designed to enhance employee understanding of the federal Hazard Communication ("HazCom") Standard. The HazCom Standard is described in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1910.1200. The computer program, developed by the employees, is designed to replace classroom training and to allow individuals to learn at their own pace. Public Works Director, George E. Wolf, Jr., P.E., congratulated the team for "...developing and completing an innovative project to help train employees on hazardous materials."

The HazCom Standard, commonly referred to as the "Employee Right-To-Know" Law, requires that both employers and employees be aware of the potential hazards of the chemicals in the workplace in order to avoid injury and property damage. The Standard requires that employers develop and implement a HazCom Program that establishes procedures for the protection of employees from the hazards associated with chemical containing products, to include the inventory of products containing hazardous chemicals (hazard evaluation), collection of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for chemicals being used, labeling of containers, and employee training.

The employee team is one of seventeen active in the Public Works Department's Employee Quality Work Improvement Process, referred to as "EQWIP." In place for the past ten years, EQWIP gets employees directly involved in improving their work processes. Employees are trained in successful team building and the nine-step EQWIP problem-solving process called "SOLVE"-Solvable Problems, Observable Causes, Logical Solutions, Validation by Management, and Empirical Results. EQWIP teams come up with a process improvement statement, solution implementation plan, management presentation, and evaluate their results. EQWIP Administrator, Gailla Rogers, stated, "This has been a wonderful EQWIP project with wonderful results that will be very beneficial to the field employees."

Work on the project began in June 1998 when the team reviewed the division's written HazCom Program and then surveyed coworkers on their knowledge of the Standard and preferences on training format. The survey received a 41 percent response rate and revealed that much needed to be done with regards to rolling out HazCom education within the division. Additionally, the survey revealed that employees were receptive to computer-based interactive training.

In March 1999, the team presented its findings to management and approval was given to design and implement a CD-ROM-based interactive training program for employees of the Street and Traffic Division. The team selected the firm of Management Strategies Group, Inc. (MSG) based in Blue Springs, Missouri, to assist in the design and provide technical support for development. MSG contracts with the City to provide a broad range of environmental and safety training to City employees. By August 2000, the team had completed research on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and development of training curricula on 46 chemicals in use within the division. Information from each MSDS was then summarized into a standard format and included test questions designed to educate employees about the essentials and test their knowledge of hazardous chemicals in the workplace. In October 2000, the team executed a contract with MSG to produce the training CD-ROM, which was delivered in August 2001 at a production cost of nine thousand dollars. The training CD-ROM is programmed with Macromedia Authorware. When the CD-ROM needs to be revised, such as adding or deleting chemical summaries, the Division intends to contract with MSG at a nominal cost.

After receiving the finished CD-ROM, Jere Meredith, P.E., Manager of the Street and Traffic Division, stated: "I have reviewed it and find it to be very good. By the way, I made a 100 percent on the test. I am especially impressed by the use of a number of employees' voices and the on-site photos. This CD will be a tremendous asset in our training program. Thanks for your efforts." The Division's 280 employees maintain and clean streets and perform traffic control operations and engineering services. The Division has five work locations: City Hall, District One, District Two, District Three, and Traffic Operations.

Early in the project, the team decided that the HazCom training program should not only be effective in training employees on hazard communication issues and on hazardous materials used by the Street and Traffic Division, but it should also be efficient by replacing classroom training to minimize training costs, minimize supervisor training time, automate training record-keeping, maximize employee learning opportunities, and be simple and inexpensive to update as needed. Typically, classroom training, whether off-site or on-site, would interrupt work crew production for a day and require hiring of an outside contractor to conduct the training. However, with CD-ROM interactive training now in place, employees can train individually at their own pace.

The CD-ROM is organized into five sections. Section One, Hazard Communication Standard, introduces students to the HazCom Standard and discusses labeling and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) diamond placard. Section Two, The Steps To Compliance, introduces the student to the six major steps to an effective HazCom program. Section Three, Understanding the MSDS, discusses the elements of an MSDS and the essential information they contain. Section Four, Summary Test, tests student proficiency on the material presented in Sections 1, 2 and 3. Section Five, Street and Traffic Division Chemicals, contains MSDS information on 46 chemicals used by the Street and Traffic Division. The chemicals are grouped into ten Chemical Categories:

1. Automotive and Lubricants: CAT Diesel Engine Oil 15W-40; Four Seasons Permanent Antifreeze; Power Lube (aerosol); Schaeffer #238 Moly Supreme #2; Superclean Windshield Washer Fluid

2. Fuels: Conoco No. 2 Diesel Fuel; Conoco Unleaded Gasoline; Ferrellgas Propane; Premium Butane Fuel (2.1 fl oz.); Ultrasorb

3. Janitorial: Boraxo Special Heavy Duty Powdered Hand Soap; Castile No. 15 Hand Soap; Cello Mop'N Strip Floor Finish Liquifier; Champion Disinfectant Spray; Champion Stainless Steel Cleaner; GoJo Natural Orange Smooth Hand Cleaner; KC Bowl Cleaner; KC Sanitary Porcelain Cleaner; Novel Wash Clear/Sudsy/Lemon Ammonia; Sodium Hypochlorite 5.25% Regular/Fresh Scent/Lemon (Always Save Best Choice Liquid Bleach); Zep Big Orange

4. Office: EP-E cartridge black (for printer); Savin 9027/9027DL/ 9035/9035DL Toner (for photocopier); T-Q23 Toner (for facsimile)

5. Pavement Markings: (17A) Marking Paint-All Colors; 3M "Stamark" Contact Cement E-44T; Hotline Traffic Paint (Acrylic Waterborne) White TM-2174

6. Sign Fabrication: 3M Scotchlite Process Color 708 Green; Dirasol 914 "Part B" Sensitizer; Dirasol 914 Phthalate Free "Part A" Emulsion; Dowanol(r) DPM Glycol Ether

7. Snow Removal: Liquidow(r) 30-42% Calcium Chloride Solution; Silica Dioxide, Quartz (Sand); Sodium Chloride (Rock Salt)

8. Street Maintenance: Coal Tar Emulsion; Crackfiller (Rubberized); Hot Mix Asphalt; Poly Perm Patch; Portland Cement; Pothole Mix, Cold Mix Asphalt

9. Traffic Signals: All Weather Quickset Clear Cement; PS 2000 Gray Traffic Loop Sealant; Scotch Brand 1607 Heavy Duty Contact Cleaner

10. Welding: Acetylene, Ethyne, Ethine; Fleetwood 37 Stick Electrode; Oxygen (liquid and gas)

Each chemical's MSDS information is presented in six screens: (1) manufacturer and address, MSDS date of publication, and emergency contact number; (2) chemical appearance; (3) health hazard; (4) emergency first aid; (5) special protection; and (6) fire and explosion properties, reactivity, and spill and leak procedure. Students can elect to progress through the screens in any sequence desired and can go directly to the proficiency test offered for each Chemical Category.

Design of the CD-ROM is optimized for employees who want to know about specific chemical hazards in the workplace and for new employees. It features automatic record-keeping on student proficiency and allows the results to be printed for placement into the employee's training file. Color photographs of Street and Traffic Division facilities and narrations provided by Public Works employees are included to enhance the CD-ROM's appeal to students.

Orientation of the training software for Street and Traffic Division employees occurred in November 2001. Each work location has the CD-ROM and it is loaded onto supervisors' computers. Supervisors were the first to receive the training so that they could then train their crews on logging in and navigating through the training program. Students generally spend an hour in front of the computer; however, the time needed varies by student depending on their understanding of the course material. Students have the option of reading the material themselves or listening to the computer read to them. Results of the quizzes are automatically scored, date-and-time stamped, and retained on the computer. Supervisors print a record of the quiz, review the results and determine if the student understands the course material presented, and place the record in the training file for future reference.

New employees receive the training on their first day on the job and others can take the training when they need a refresher, such as when new chemicals are introduced into the workplace. The CD-ROM also reminds employees to examine and follow the MSDS issued by the manufacturer when using a chemical.

Deputy Director of Public Works, Larry Frevert, P.E., said that a demonstration version of the training CD-ROM will soon be available and can be downloaded from the Public Works Administrative Division website at www.kcmo.org by governmental agencies that may be interested in purchasing the full version from Kansas City, Missouri, Public Works.

To reach Michelle Dean, call (816) 513-9336 or send e-mail to michelle_dean@kcmo.org; to reach George Goodale, call (816) 513-2624 or send e-mail to george_goodale@kcmo.org; to reach Gailla Rogers, call (816) 513-2628 or send e-mail to gailla_rogers@kcmo.org.