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Rutgers Receives Training Grant for Infectious Disease Safety

The New Jersey/New York Hazardous Materials Worker Training Center (NJNY Center), based at the Rutgers School of Public Health, was awarded a more than $750,000 three-year training grant (Grant No. 1UH4ES027019) from the Worker Training Program (WTP) at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to conduct worker-based training to prevent and reduce workers’ risk of exposure to the Ebola virus and other infectious diseases through their work duties and responsibilities.

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[Photo: Dr. Mitchel Rosen]

“A few years ago, very few of us had heard of diseases like Ebola or Zika,” said Dr. Linda Birnbaum, NIEHS director. “We need to ensure that we have a workforce ready to contain these and the next infectious disease threat. This new training program will help these workers, who do so much to help and protect others, stay safe when working with patients or people in high risk situations.”

The Rutgers School of Public Health is partnering with the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), the World Cares Center, and Universidad Metropolitana (Puerto Rico), to develop and conduct this worker training program, “Ebola Biosafety and Infectious Disease Response Training.”  “Because the partners have been working collaboratively to provide top quality training for workers for many years,” said Dr. Mitchel Rosen, Director of the NJNY Center, “we will be able to apply our expertise to develop and implement this new training program together to protect a broad range of workers from exposure to infectious diseases.”

Each year, over 1,100 workers in Federal Region 2, including New Jersey, New York, and Puerto Rico, will receive this special training on the Ebola virus and other infectious diseases through both face-to-face and online training environments.  A variety of teaching methods will be used, including small group activities, hands-on, lectures, and discussions.

“When we think of occupations that may be exposed to infectious disease, airport workers or custodial employees may not initially come to mind,” said Dr. Joseph “Chip” Hughes, WTP director at NIEHS. “Yet all of these occupations have an important role in minimizing disease transmission, and they need to know how to protect themselves so they do not get infected or spread diseases to their families or communities.”

The Center will conduct training that addresses the elements of exposure and risk faced by workers, and site-specific or industry-specific opportunities for prevention, preparedness, and response strategies. The training will be provided to responders, including local and state health department personnel, EMS, police, fire, and hospital personnel. Additionally, community organizations and unions that deal with exposure to infectious disease, including domestic workers and nail salon workers, will receive training.

The NJ/NY Hazardous Materials Worker Training Center has a long history of effective training, providing hazardous materials and disaster response training to almost 500,000 workers since 1987.  The NJNY Center trains workers about safety issues during hazardous materials and emergency response operations, as well as trains the workforce to prepare for and respond to disasters.  The courses develop competency in workers to critically analyze dangerous situations, and enable them to identify safe work practices.