The Connecticut Carpenters Apprenticeship and Training Program received grant money as part of Eastern Connecticut’s implementation of the CT Green Jobs Funnel Initiative. The money will be used to hold a 24-hour Safe and Green: Best Practices in Health Care Construction in Occupied Facilities Training Program combined with a 16-hour Green Tradesmen Training Program.
The grant money will allow up to twelve NERCC members to take the course. As part of the requirements of the grant, the members must be residents of a municipality in Eastern Connecticut.
The course will involve four days of classroom work and one day of hands-on training. Topics to be covered include: the challenges of performing safe and green construction in a healthcare facility; an overview of the various types of healthcare facilities and the uniquely hazardous environments they present; controlling contaminants; guidelines, precautions, and infection control measures; and mold remediation and removal.
A popular line thrown out by those looking to denigrate unions is that "they may have had a purpose years ago, but not anymore." They also like to say that there is no difference between union and nonunion construction.
The lie is clear when you look at many aspects of the industry, from training to benefits to safety and working conditions. But all too often a client says they are only concerned about the bottom line. To which the simple answer is: yes, of course.
Consider a common example: a hospital needs to do an addition or renovate existing space. Is the bid price the most important consideration? What about the financial risk of hiring an unqualified or substandard company and the impact that would have on the bottom line of the entire facility, not just the construction project?
Here's where the union advantage trumps a nonunion bid that appears to be a few percent lower: The United Brotherhood of Carpenters has developed a training program for apprentices and journey level workers called "Best Practices in Health-Care Construction in Occupied Facilities." It was developed through a cooperative effort of national leaders in health care, construction management and union training programs.
Once developed, the program was taught to hundreds of UBC Trainers who took the program back to their local areas and held classes with carpenters in the field.
The curriculum, in part, includes teaching "awareness of hazards, including asbestos, lead, mold, silica, and other materials, as well as blood-borne pathogens and other hospital-specific concerns. Trainees learn how to identify and classify work areas to maintain an environment that can minimize risks, illness, and injury. Specialized clothing and equipment are part of the package."
Sure, the program costs money, but because the investment is made on a national level between labor and management partners, it provides a tremendous bang for the buck. Local health care facilities gain piece of mind that not only are union workers earning a decent wage, they're provided decent health care benefits that allow them to get treatment in the very facilities they're building AND they've got the cutting edge skills to ensure health care providers offer the best care during and after the project is complete.
Nonunion contractors may save a few dollars on the bid documents, but lack of training, questionable access to reliable, skilled workers and a "slap dash" approach put projects and health at risk. Consider one contractor hired on several hospital jobs in New England who seems to show little regard for limiting the risk of infection.
It would be interesting to study not only the cost over-runs due to shoddy work but the number of infections reported in the hospital before, during and after the highlighted projects. More educational would be to then compare those numbers to ones from hospitals who used union carpenters that completed the "Best Practices" program developed by the Carpenters Union.
Construction in occupied health care facilities is a large and expanding segment of the construction industry. Billions of dollars are spent annually on additions and renovations to existing, occupied health care facilities.
These work opportunities, however, present unique challenges to contractors, health care administrators, workers and patients. Many hazards exist that are unique to the health care industry. Contamination, cross-contamination, mold, viruses and other issues must be considered and addressed. The statistics are staggering: 1.75 million cases resulting in nearly 100,000 deaths annually from health care associated infections (HAI??s).
In an effort to address these issues and expand the work opportunities for union members and contractors, the Carpenters International Training Fund has developed a training course called ??Best Practices in Health Care Construction: Occupied Facilities??. This 24-hour member training course covers types of hazards and methods used to minimize and control exposure; types of health care facilities; how infection control measures are determined; common types of contaminants and how they are spread as well as ways to control airborne mold spores. The training involves classroom training as well as hands-on practice using isolation methods, negative air-pressure environments, personal protective gear and contaminant removal methods.
The Connecticut Carpenters Apprentice & Training Program recently presented the first session of the Best Practices in Health Care Facilities class. Members employed with the S.G. Milazzo Company attended the first class. Instructor Timothy Moriarty presented the curriculum and supervised the hands-on practice session.
This training should be in high demand in Connecticut and the rest of New England with the large number of hospitals, convalescent homes, out-patient clinics and other health care facilities around the region. The volume of current work and projected work in the future indicates that the need for this important training will increase into the foreseeable future.