Local 677, NFS provide OSHA training to high school students

Andrew Nelson and Misty Jones believe that health and safety education is not only important for current workers, but also for future workers and members of the community. This belief is why United Steelworkers (USW) Local Union 9-677, representing members at BWXT Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. (NFS) in Erwin, Tenn., lead community outreach training.

Nelson, president of Local 677, and Jones, member and USW Tony Mazzocchi Center (USWTMC) worker-trainer, coordinated with NFS and the Center to provide training to high school students in the area.

“Misty is driven,” Nelson said, “she brought this training project to me.”

After meeting with David Cassady, USWTMC program coordinator, to build a work plan and utilize available grants through the Center, Nelson and Jones brought the idea to NFS company leadership.

“The company embraced the idea and were gracious when we made it a partnership,” Nelson said.

NFS continues to work with the local to provide the students with an educational experience, while also offering snacks, meals and gear such as backpacks.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration authorizes OSHA Outreach trainers in general industry and construction, for 10- and 30-hour courses. Jones and other worker-trainers at her site, like Brenda Edwards, mostly conduct OSHA 10-hour training for students at Unicoi County High School in Erwin, Tenn.

“Brenda and I have nearly 60 years combined work experience, as well as nearly 20 years combined worker-trainer experience,” Jones said.

However, the two trainers understand that teaching methods and techniques for high school students differ from adults who are already active in the workforce. They worked to ensure comprehension and applied knowledge through hands-on activities.

For instance, Jones and Edwards played “hot potato” with the students when passing around personal protective equipment (PPE). When Jones called “hot potato,” the student with the PPE, for example a hard hat, would have to determine which class the hard hat is rated.

“For these young workers, the importance of this class will not come today or tomorrow; it may be 10 years,” Jones said.

“One day they could be faced with a situation in the workplace that causes them concern for their safety or for that of a coworker," Jones said. “That moment is when the value of this training becomes apparent.”

“In that moment I hope, and it is my sincerest intention, that they are empowered to stop and evaluate the situation,” Jones said.

Local 677 is working with the USWTMC to expand their community outreach training efforts to surrounding communities, other high schools and even local firefighters.

“I was born and raised here so I have a very strong sense of community when it comes to Erwin,” Nelson said. “I’d like to help every community if I could, but this is a good place to start because our plant and local is here.”

“My goal is to see just how far we can reach out,” Nelson said.

Nelson hopes that this training will equip students with the knowledge of their rights as workers, and how to identify hazards or unsafe conditions. He also hopes that the students will see the benefits of being a union member.

“Community outreach is an important part of the DOE [Department of Energy] world,” Cassady said. “It is a very positive development at our local sites, that they are incorporating this community outreach into our DOE training programs.”

USW Local 1-689, representing members at Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Pike Country, Ohio, also provide community outreach training.

Photos courtesy of Misty Jones.


Training reported in this publication is supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award number UH4ES009761. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIEHS, NIH.