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Making Workplace Safety a Family Affair

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Riggio Valve is a family-owned small business in Bayonne, New Jersey, that performs rebuilding, welding, and machining services.

Several years ago, owner and president Vin Riggio set out to improve his company’s workplace safety and health program. After learning about the free compliance assistance services provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) On-Site Consultation Program at a safety conference, he reached out to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development to get started.

Through the program, consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide services on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing a safety and health program. OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program is available to employers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. territories.

“We did not have the internal expertise, so the consultation program provided that along with the support we needed,” Vin said.

Riggio Valve
Riggio Valve in New Jersey improved its safety and health program with support from OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program.

It is critical in every kind of work environment that employees are authorized to stop work at any time upon recognizing a possible hazard or unsafe condition. “Our employees helped to identify areas that needed improvement,” said Vin. Additionally, tests such as noise and air sampling were conducted to proactively ensure employees were not being exposed to hazards. The company also created a safety committee that includes both workers and management.

Since working with the consultation program, Riggio Valve has reduced its injury and illness rates ‒ they have not had a recordable injury in more than three years. As a result, the company has even saved money through lower insurance premiums.

In April 2017, Riggio Valve was accepted into OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). This program recognizes small business employers who have participated in the On-Site Consultation Program and who operate an exemplary safety and health program. Find more resources for small businesses on OSHA’s website.

Jennifer Odiatu, an intern in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs in Philadelphia, helped adapt this story from OSHA’s collection of SHARP success stories.

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U.S. Department of Labor Blog

Ending Child Labor

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ILAB’s Futuros Brillantes project is one of several DOL projects designed to root out child labor from coffee supply chains.
ILAB’s Futuros Brillantes project is one of several DOL projects designed to root out child labor from coffee supply chains. Credit: Israel Carcamo for World Vision 

Today, 152 million children are exploited worldwide through the deplorable practice of child labor. Children as young as 4 years old are forced to scrub factory floors, fold garments in over-crowded textile mills, pick crops under the hot sun, and work other jobs unsuitable for their age or development.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) is working across the Administration and with stakeholders to advance efforts to end child labor.

As we observe World Day Against Child Labor, one important project to highlight ILAB’s work is coffee production. ILAB’s List of Goods, which identifies supply chains that violate international labor standards, found that 16 countries use child labor in the coffee production process. To end this abhorrent practice, we are working with partners to build coalitions of coffee buyers that support supply chains free of abusive child labor practices. In other countries, we are working with business associations to provide resources to families so that adults can support their families while children pursue an education.

One important part of the Trump Administration’s trade agenda is ensuring that trading partners do not profit from the use of child labor. When other countries fail to uphold their commitments on this issue, it is morally wrong and it harms American job creators and workers.

On World Day Against Child Labor, I hope you will join me in renewing our national commitment to ending child labor for good.

Martha Newton is the Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs at the Bureau of International Labor Affairs.

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U.S. Department of Labor Blog

OSHA Leads National Stand-Down to Prevent Falls

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Loren Sweatt attends a National Safety Stand-Down event at the new D.C. United stadium.
More than 650 construction workers attended a National Safety Stand-Down event at the new D.C. United stadium.

Over one-third of construction fatalities occurred due to falls from elevation in 2016. Every worker in America should return home from work safe and sound at the end of the day.

Falls are preventable.

That’s why the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) holds an annual “National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls” each May. Across the nation and around the world, employers and employees voluntarily stop working to focus on safety concerns surrounding falls from elevation, which in construction is a height of six feet or higher.

This effort provides an opportunity to raise awareness of this serious danger, and a platform for employers and employees to discuss specific safety measures that can mitigate the risk of falls. Stand-down activities may include a discussion of job hazards, an assessment of potential risks, and the development of safety policies and goals.

This year, OSHA kicked off National Safety Stand-Down Week at the newly-constructed D.C. United Audi Field stadium in Washington, D.C. Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Patrick Pizzella and I joined safety experts and over 650 construction workers to discuss the importance of fall prevention, and encourage workers to participate in safety training.

Preventing falls is everyone’s responsibility. This stand-down campaign is a great reminder that we must be vigilant.

To share your story with OSHA on your Safety Stand-Down, Fall Prevention Programs, please email us at oshastanddown@dol.gov.

 

Loren Sweatt is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health.

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U.S. Department of Labor Blog

Hospitality Apprenticeship Offers Bostonian a Path to Success

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Hadia Diallo of South Boston enrolled at Quincy Junior College after high school. To afford tuition, she worked – as a teacher’s assistant at a local after-school program, a visitor’s experience associate at the Boston Children’s Museum, and a security officer – which meant that she could not attend school full time.

“After balancing school and work for so many years, I was stuck on what to do next,” said Hadia, now 25. “I knew that I wanted to go back to school and become successful, but I needed something to help me get back on track.”

As a housekeeping apprentice, Hadia is on her way to her dream job.
       As a housekeeping apprentice,
       Hadia is on her way to her dream job.

Hadia’s husband had graduated from the BEST Hospitality Training Center’s pre-apprenticeship program in 2015, and by December 2017 he had advanced to a supervisor position at a luxury hotel in Boston.

After seeing her husband’s success, Hadia decided to try it for herself.

She applied and was accepted into the 6-week housekeeping pre-apprenticeship. As part of her training, she shadowed employees at two luxury hotels in Boston. Upon completion of the program, she was hired by a waterfront hotel as a housekeeping apprentice based on her excellent performance.

The paid apprenticeship includes 2,000-hours of on-the-job training coupled with formal instruction, and the opportunity to earn up to 12 credits at Bunker Hill Community College. Apprentices like Hadia can take additional courses in the college’s Hotel/Restaurant Management program at a substantially reduced rate through an agreement with BEST.

“I was looking for a career path and a great job where I can continue to learn,” said Hadia. “This program helped me to get a job at one of the best hotels in the city, the skills to be successful ‒ and I like interacting with guests.”

Today Hadia is learning the housekeeping and customer service skills she needs to pursue her dreams, which include a good-paying job, a college degree, and career advancement. Ultimately, she hopes to become a supervisor.

“This program has been life-changing,” said Hadia. “I’ve been learning new skills and making connections that have put me on a path to a career.”

James Lally is a deputy director in the Department’s Office of Public Affairs in Boston.

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U.S. Department of Labor Blog

Veteran is Firmly Planted in the Working World Again

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Sean has transitioned to a job he loves.

Sean McMillen has taken an unorthodox path in the professional world, with stopovers as a soldier in the U.S. Army, an egg inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and an independent nursery owner. Now – thanks to support from a disabled veterans assistance program – he’s enjoying his most satisfying career yet, working as a grain inspector for a company in Oregon.

A self-described city kid, Sean discovered a passion for gardening in his early twenties when a friend gave him an orchid. After a stint in the Army, Sean decided to open his own farm and nursery outside of Portland, Oregon, where he still lives.

Unfortunately, when business took a downturn, Sean had to close his nursery and seek a new career path. By his estimate, he was about six months away from homelessness, with no viable job prospects in sight. He also suffered from the effects of a back injury he incurred during an Army exercise.

That’s when he reached out to a program in Portland, supported by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, that helps disabled veterans reintegrate into the civilian workforce. He credits the staff with helping him tighten up his resume, navigate the job search process, and, perhaps most importantly, “get motivated again.”

Within a few months, a large company that was opening its first office in his area offered Sean a position as a certified grain inspector, and he accepted. On any given day at his new job, he travels around the Pacific Northwest to collect samples for certification from a grain silo in Yakima, Washington, or even a tanker in Seattle Harbor with a load of wheat bound for international markets. 

He regularly refers other veterans to the program that helped him get back on his feet. “I don’t think a lot of people know these programs are out there,” Sean said.

Veterans can visit veterans.gov or call 1-877-872-5627 to learn about the employment services available near them, including one-on-one assistance at an American Job Center.

Leo Kay is the regional public affairs director for the Labor Department in San Francisco.

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U.S. Department of Labor Blog

SHARP Success: McGregor Industries

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McGregor Industries Inc. is a fourth generation family-run business based in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, that fabricates and installs metal products for buildings. Under the leadership of owner Robert R. McGregor, the company has worked to take safety and health to the next level through OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), which recognizes small business employers who have used OSHA On-Site Consultation Program services and operate an exemplary safety and health program.

Following an internal audit of their safety program, McGregor contacted PA OSHA Consultation for help. The PA Consultation representative determined that lockout/tagout procedures, safety data sheets, and training needed to be updated.

From left: Dave Maurer, Josh Schwarztrauber, John Stewart, Brian Florovito, Basil Kutch, Jim Wallo, Mike Carrotto, Mike Phillips, Dave Callis, Jacob Schwarztrauber, Jeremy Black, George Lionsky, Caitlin Chambers, Ed Kalinski, Foreman John Wallo
From left: Dave Maurer, Josh Schwarztrauber, John Stewart, Brian Florovito, Basil Kutch, Jim Wallo, Mike Carrotto, Mike Phillips, Dave Callis, Jacob Schwarztrauber, Jeremy Black, George Lionsky, Caitlin Chambers, Ed Kalinski, Foreman John Wallo

The consultant recommended that the company work toward earning acceptance into SHARP. Working closely with the consultant, a team of managers and employees integrated a new safety and health program and reporting system. Additionally, through a more comprehensive training program, employees are better able to identify and report hazards.

Since becoming a SHARP participant, the company has significantly reduced serious injuries – and the benefits of having trained professionals on-site extends beyond a safer workplace. “Our employees felt a great sense of pride being part of the process and achieving the SHARP certification,” explained Chief Financial Officer Joseph Murray. “It’s a win for all involved.”

OSHA Consultation projects are operated by states, and provide small businesses with free, confidential safety and health services. Additional information about OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program and other small business resources is available at www.osha.gov or by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

Shariq Marshall, an intern in the Department’s Office of Public Affairs in Philadelphia, helped adapt this story from OSHA’s collection of SHARP success stories.

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U.S. Department of Labor Blog

Generations of Apprenticeship Power Career Success

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Electrical apprenticeships have launched careers for three generations of this Georgia family.

Following in the footsteps of her electrician father, Betsy Ritch-Reed put on a hard hat and tool belt, and began an apprenticeship with the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) in the early 1980s.

As part of her on-the-job training, she assisted with specialized projects for the military in a pre-fabrication shop at Fort Benning, Georgia. After completing the Independent Electrical Contractors apprenticeship program, she worked as a licensed electrician for 11 years. In 1996, she took over her father’s business, Ritch Electric Co. Inc., in Columbus, Georgia. Today she oversees more than two dozen employees.

Betsy Ritch-Reed
      Betsy Ritch-Reed

Betsy has helped train the next generation of electricians as an instructor at Columbus Technical College and as a substitute instructor for the IEC apprenticeship program. She continues to hire and train electrical apprentices for her own business, as well.

Her advice to the next generation: Stick to your goals. “Whatever career you choose, do not let anyone tell you that you can’t do it,” said Betsy. “If you believe you can do it, you can.”

Her 22-year-old grandson, Blaine Reed, has followed in the family footsteps and has nearly finished the four-year IEC apprenticeship. The program involves paid on-the-job training under the supervision of an IEC contractor, as well as 576 hours of classroom instruction learning about topics such as residential wiring, electrical theory, how to interpret the National Electric Code, and grounding and electrical design. Upon completion, graduates are certified as an electrician by the IEC and can apply their trade throughout the country.

Betsy’s success has been a model for Blaine, who has seen how the electrical trade can provide a fulfilling career and a good living.

“Societies need great electricians to build a connected and lighted world,” said Blaine, who likes working with robots. Like his grandmother, he is taking on-the-job training at Fort Benning. One day he also would like to own his own business – one that focuses on programmable logic controllers, which are specialized computers used to control robots and other kinds of electromechanical systems or processes.

The outlook for electricians is bright, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects the occupation will grow 9 percent between 2016 and 2026. The IEC estimates there is a shortage of nearly 100,000 electrical workers across the country. Learn more about how to become an electrician via the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Eric R. Lucero is a deputy director in the department’s Office of Public Affairs in Atlanta, Georgia.

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U.S. Department of Labor Blog

Electrical Apprenticeship Leads to Promising Career

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Josiah at work
Josiah is embarking on a new career after enrolling in an electrical apprenticeship program.

 

After taking college courses for two years and holding several jobs with limited opportunities for growth, Josiah Thorngate of Middletown, Connecticut, applied to an electrical apprenticeship program that a friend had recommended. At 31, Josiah is now embarking on a new career and has big plans for his family’s future.


Josiah and his daughter

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electricians earn above the national median at $ 52,720 per year (slightly more in Connecticut), and the occupation is expected to grow 9 percent between 2016 and 2026. The wages and long-term security offered by this field appealed to Josiah, who wanted his next job to do more than just pay the bills.

As part of the four-year apprenticeship through the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) of New England, Josiah started working for Electrical Energy Systems Corp. in Southington. Josiah quickly earned a reputation among his peers for his skills. He enjoyed tackling complex tasks and troubleshooting problems, and felt a sense of pride in seeing the well-planned final product.

After he graduated as valedictorian of his apprenticeship class in 2017, Josiah received his electrician’s license and has continued working for the company as a journeyman.

“I’m very blessed with the timing of coming into the trade, and the company I work for has been great,” said Josiah, who is married with a 4-year-old daughter. “The wages easily provide a livable income and there are opportunities for growth … and the ability to put money away for retirement is absolutely there.”

IEC New England apprentices learn on the job, receive formal classroom instruction, and may be awarded up to 40 college credits that can be applied toward a four-year degree. Last October, Josiah was chosen to represent his IEC chapter at the IEC National Apprentice of the Year Wire-Off Competition, where top apprentices from around the country demonstrate their skills.

Today he’s looking forward to a brighter future, confident in the knowledge that he is now equipped with the skills for an in-demand career.

“The program gave me a great direction in life and I’m working toward a sustainable future for myself and my family,” said Josiah. “There is always a need for electricians.”

James Lally is a public affairs specialist for the Labor Department in Boston.

 

 

 

 

 

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U.S. Department of Labor Blog

An Education to Grow With

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Ginger Pike

Thirty-four-year-old Ginger Pike is a pipefitter/welder apprentice with the United Association of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 716 in Augusta, Maine. Through the five-year apprenticeship, the lifelong Maine resident has learned to work with all sorts of equipment, including welding machines, scissor lifts, hole saws, drills, and grinders.

Apprentices in Local 716’s program earn a paycheck while they learn by working alongside journeymen as well as by attending related classes and receiving technical instruction.

Now in her final year, Ginger has a fulfilling job working for Kinetics of Scarborough, a full-service process and mechanical contractor in the Portland area specializing in mechanical, plumbing, and HVAC systems.

Ginger welding on the job

Ginger’s normal day at work consists of pipefitting, reading blueprints, cutting pipe or tubing, fitting material together, grinding, welding, bending tubing, and building hangers for pipes. 

Ginger began applying for construction apprenticeships and eventually her perseverance paid off − she was contacted by a representative of Women Unlimited, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the economic wellbeing of Maine women, minorities, and disadvantaged workers. The representative let her know that the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 716 was accepting new applicants and advised her throughout the process.

“This job has impacted my life immensely,” said Ginger. “It has enhanced my confidence and gave me an education that I can use and grow with. It is just the beginning, and this program has been so amazing for me and my family. I no longer have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet – words cannot express the gratitude I feel.”

Ginger is on track to graduate this spring, and is looking forward to beginning her career as a journeyman pipefitter/welder with the benefits and the financial security that have come from learning a skilled trade without incurring student debt.

James Lally is a public affairs specialist for the Labor Department in Boston.

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U.S. Department of Labor Blog

Passion for Cars Drives Apprentice Toward Success

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Alyssa poses in front of a car at work.
An apprenticeship has helped Alyssa Culver turn her passion for cars into a promising career path.

For collision repair technician Alyssa Culver, 22, working on cars is in her genes. She inherited her passion from her father, grandfather and great-grandfather − and she is on track to make them very proud.

Since she was a little girl, Alyssa has helped her father work on cars at her family’s business. With a passion for the work, but no interest in attending a four-year college or incurring student loan debt, she enrolled at Universal Technical Institute.

“Attending UTI is one of the most important things I did,” she said

Her apprenticeship taught her the basics and paved the way for her current profession as a collision repair technician at the Spring, Texas, location of Service King, which has a vested interest in her success.

“The support system is the best part,” Culver said. Service King provides dedicated veteran technicians to oversee the apprentices and, according to Culver, that helps her quite a bit.

“Service King’s Apprentice Development Program is a longtime vision of our organization. We take immense pride in creating opportunities for all of our teammates, especially the next generation of skilled technicians,” said CEO Chris Abraham. Since its inception, the program has graduated 125 apprentices.

“The demand for technicians in this industry is well documented, so we are particularly proud of the success of this program and the early classes that have graduated from it,” said Abraham. Employment for automotive service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow 6 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Culver says the dedicated support from Apprenticeship Supervisor Al Scott and her other colleagues contributes to her success. Culver, in turn, does the best possible work she can.

According to Tyra Bremer, Service King’s vice president of talent development, Culver impressed her fellow apprentice technicians and other employees with her drive, ambition, and pride in her craft.

“I am hard on myself. I am trying to perfect everything,” Culver says. In the future, she hopes to move up within her company, and maybe even manage a Service King location one day.

Editor’s note: Alyssa Culver’s story is one example of an effective workforce program in action. View more success stories here.

Juan J. Rodriguez is a public affairs specialist for the Labor Department in Dallas

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U.S. Department of Labor Blog