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New Mexico* Trains Workers Through Alliance with National Utility Contractors Association of New Mexico

On August 21, 2003, the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau (NM OSHA) signed an Alliance Agreement with the National Utility Contractors Association of New Mexico (NUCA of NM). The Alliance was renewed for an additional 3 years on August 16, 2007. NUCA of NM is an association of 63 companies that represent approximately 2000 employees. Together, NM OSHA and NUCA of NM are using their collective expertise to advance a culture of prevention, while sharing best practices and technical knowledge to better familiarize and train members in the utility contractor field in safety and health requirements.

Early in the Alliance, NM OSHA and the Safety Committee of NUCA of NM formed the Alliance Safety Committee, whose members include Howard Gentry, Compliance Assistance Specialist (CAS), NM OSHA and representatives from the insurance and underground utility industries (e.g., RMCI Inc., Aon Risk Services, TLC Plumbing & Utility, AUI Inc., CCM, Inc., Vis-Com, Inc.). To address the issue of advancing a culture of safety, the Committee developed a Safety and Health Training and Education Plan. First, Committee members determined which OSHA courses to offer and when and where to offer them. Usually, committee members provide the OSHA 10-Hour Outreach Training Program for Construction at least once every quarter, but when requested, they provide it more often and to individual companies.

Second, the Alliance Safety Committee concentrated its efforts on NUCA's Next Step Program, which is a comprehensive damage prevention program focused on underground contracting work. The students who participate in the Next Step Program are usually a mix of field employees, supervisors, and utility owners. Next Step provides training in topics such as excavation and trench safety, potholing and trenchless technology as well as the Damage Information Reporting Tool (DIRT) and the NUCA Hit Kit. The DIRT Tool is a secure Web application for the collecting and reporting of underground damage information that allows a user to submit damage and near-miss reports and browse other files submitted by his organization. The NUCA Hit Kit is designed to assist the employee in documenting an underground utility line that was struck; it includes a large "ruler" that shows exactly where the line is located and nicked as well as other pertinent information needed for documentation. The Next Step Program is presented by members of the Alliance once every quarter in a different part of the state. During the first 3 quarters of 2007, 106 Next Step students successfully completed the training.

The last major element of the Safety and Health Training and Education Plan involves the Alliance representatives' assisting in providing the OSHA 3020 Tunneling and Underground Operations Course to health and safety inspectors at NMOSHA, NM On-site Consultation Program and Kirtland Air Force Base personnel. To date, 12 inspectors have taken the course.

Members of the Alliance Safety Committee have trained over 325 people in the OSHA 10-Hour Outreach Training Program for Construction, the Next Step Program and other NUCA of NM courses. The languages and backgrounds of the students taking these courses varies. To meet the needs of the students, New Mexico provides the 10-Hour course in English, Spanish and via bilingual classes which are taught by an English-speaking instructor and a certified Spanish interpreter who uses a headset and transmitter to reach the Spanish-speaking students. Employing this technology has enabled the Alliance to increase the numbers of employees trained. Between January and June 2007, 66 students took the 10-Hour course in English, 55 students took it in Spanish and 65 students took it when taught bilingually.

Howard Gentry commented, "The Alliance between NM OSHA and NUCA of NM has grown beyond the expectations of the initial participants. Members of the Alliance have been afforded an opportunity to work as a team to provide training and outreach to the membership and the community. This Alliance has also given NM OSHA the opportunity to work with owners, superintendents, project managers, safety directors/coordinators and company employees to solve problems and to ensure that employees at all levels are given training opportunities that includes safety as part of the of the job and not an add-on element. Accident and injury reduction and safety education are common goals of NM OSHA and NUCA of NM."

According to Jane Jernigan, Executive Director, NUCA of NM, "The Alliance has provided an avenue for cooperation and open communication with NM OSHA representatives and, therefore, has afforded the NUCA of NM members the tools needed to provide safety training to their employees in and out of the classroom, in English and Spanish, as well as best safety practices and overall workplace safety as part of their membership. Working together towards the same goal of safety and health in the workplace has helped advance the overall culture of the association's dedication to safety."

For more information about this Alliance, contact Howard Gentry.

--As of December 2007

* New Mexico is a State Plan State that has modeled its Alliance Program on that of the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). For more information, visit the NM Occupational Health & Safety Bureau Website.

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