In the fall of 2018 and early winter of 2019, a series of typhoons battered Guam and the other Northern Mariana Islands, destroying roads, buildings, and other infrastructure. As construction crews began the dangerous work of rebuilding, a group of UC San Diego Extension educators arrived to assist with a critical part of the mission: keeping those workers safe.
Extension’s OSHA Training Institute Education Center received $284,000 as part of a federal Susan Harwood Training Grant. Over a period of three weeks last February, a handful of instructors and other staff traveled between Guam, Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, educating work crews in the use of protective equipment and hazard avoidance.
“It’s about keeping the workers safe from whatever they may run into,” says Julia M. Dunlap, director of Business, Legal, and Safety programs and part of the Extension team. Workers faced a variety of dangers and perilous jobs on the islands, including flood recovery, electrical work, tree trimming and mold removal.
“We decided to do in-person classroom trainings as well as tailgate meetings,” says Stephanie Spann, associate director of the UCSD/OTIEC/UCSD Extension Occupational Safety & Health Department. In between formal sessions, the instructors drove around the islands, stopping to teach any workers they found. In all, the instructors trained 600 people in the islands—more than they expected.
“We made the point that we weren’t there to find people doing things wrong. We were there to help and give them information, and people appreciated that,” Dunlap says.
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