Nash Community College has been awarded a $50,000 grant from Duke Energy through the Duke Energy Foundation to fund an enhancement project to ensure NCC’s Electric Line Construction Academy students receive classroom and field instruction.
The instruction will incorporate collaborative problem solving and critical thinking. The grant will employ project-based learning to hone skills, expand knowledge, preparing students to enter the workforce. To achieve this, the current Line Construction classroom will be redesigned to include interactive displays, lecture capture, and configurable seating to accommodate team learning, already part of the college’s Math Tank and English Studio redesigns. Multi-configurable spaces have led to increased student passing rates from 50 percent to 80 percent.
“Duke Energy has been an important partner with the college, investing in the education of electric line construction technicians help to ensure future success and job safety. The role of these trainees is critical to meeting the utility needs in our state and beyond,” NCC President Bill Carver said.
Additionally, instructor videos will provide concept previews, while helmet cameras will record and live stream climbing projects for self and peer evaluation and targeted formative instruction. Enhanced technology features include computer touch screen input, to be integrated into training field. Industry specific supplies will support team and project-based training. The improved learning environment will aide in increased instruction efficiency and provide increased supplemental resources to better engage students, leading to increased recruitment and retention, improved performance, and faster progression through skill sets.
“Nash Community College is an important partner in developing the workforces that enables Duke Energy to provide safe, reliable energy 24-hours a day,” said Duke Energy District Manager Tanya Evans.
NCC provides workforce development to improve the lives of students and their families, reduce costs for employers and enhance the quality of life in communities. The 16-week Electric Line Construction Academy prepares graduates for entry-level careers in the electrical utility field and is the first step towards the Electric Line Construction Technology diploma and degree. The academy accelerates training leading to the 3rd Class Line Construction Technology Certificate, a credential in high demand.
The academy has a reputation for training competent candidates for the utility industry. Since 2011, students have enrolled in the program from counties all across North Carolina and from other states, including Virginia, South Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Employers who have hired students from the program include Progress Energy, Duke Power, Dominion Power, Electric Membership Corporations, state municipalities and contractors. Fifteen students from the semester ending in December 2013 already are working for the city of Rocky Mount, Strata Solar Company, TD Electrical, city of Wilson, Wake Electric, Duke Energy, South River EMC, Edgecombe-Martin EMC and companies in Pennsylvania and New York.
After decades of speaking out against workplace hazards in this country and abroad, Garrett Brown didn’t quietly fade away when he retired from his high-ranking state regulatory job in California. He came back to hound his former employer.
Garrett Brown, as a college student in 1975, supporting a grape boycott promoted by the United Farm Workers union.
Brown released a blistering critique of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health just weeks after leaving the agency at the end of last year. The report is the core of a watchdog group’s federal complaint trying to prod Cal/OSHA, as the agency is known, to add field inspectors and step up enforcement.
Then, in April, Brown lodged a whistleblower claim with the state auditor. In it he accuses the department that oversees Cal/OSHA of “improperly,” and “possibly illegally,” misusing money that is supposed to go to his former agency. And this month Brown launched a website, Inside Cal/OSHA, to step up his criticism of what he regards as the pro-employer drift of the agency.
Brown’s unconventional farewell after 20 years at Cal/OSHA, where he was a respected inspector before being named special assistant to the agency’s chief, was hardly out of character. Brown, 61, has been both a crusader and a buttoned-down career bureaucrat. After starting out as an activist, he came to the agency willing to work for change within the system. Yet over the years he riled his own bosses by publicly calling for more staff, arguing that the state has more fish and game wardens than job safety inspectors.
Long before arriving at Cal/OSHA, Brown was drawn to the plight of industrial workers. In his 20s, he did a stint as a newspaper reporter writing about steel mills in the Chicago area. Then Brown was a union factory laborer and forklift driver for four years — a period when he also was a member of the Socialist Worker Party and tried to organize workers around health and safety issues, before quitting the party in 1983. “It became clear that the Socialist Worker Party had an over-optimistic view that workers were on the verge of rebellion in the United States,” he said.
Brown, the son of a successful advertising sales executive for Time Inc., grew up in wealthy suburbs of New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh. An ancestor on his mother’s side, William Floyd, signed the Declaration of Independence. His Episcopalian Republican parents took seriously the Sermon on the Mount and encouraged benevolence to others. Born in 1952, the first of five children, Brown was the “goody two shoes of the family,” he said in an interview in his tidy home northeast of San Francisco in El Cerrito, Calif., where he lives with his spouse Myrna Santiago, the chair of the history department at a nearby Catholic liberal arts college.
Brown at recent garment workers union meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh (Photo by Asiful Hoque)
Brown attended a fancy prep school, St. George’s in Newport, R.I., with a Rockefeller and a du Pont as classmates. He described himself as “not a popular guy in prep school. I wasn’t an athlete. I wasn’t part of the cliques. I was an outsider who identified with outsiders.” A formative experience came in 1969, the summer before Brown’s senior year, when he went off to an American Field Service volunteer program in Pipestem, a small town in southern West Virginia.
“What struck me was there were a lot of poor people,” he said. “I’d never seen poor white people. They worked very hard. The poverty wasn’t from lack of moral character or lack of drive. West Virginia was rich in terms of resources but they were owned by banks in Pittsburgh and New York City. That struck me as unjust.”
His idealism kindled, Brown went off to college amid the social turbulence that continued from the 1960s into the early 1970s. He took off a year to drive a Checker Cab in Boston, before graduating from the University of Chicago in 1976. A student of 20th Century American history, Brown wrote a thesis on the transition of the United Auto Workers from a social movement union in the 1930s and 1940s to a more pragmatic labor organization.
After his newspaper and factory jobs, Brown decided that he wanted to observe social change up close, and headed to a Spanish language school in northern Nicaragua, in a stronghold of the leftist Sandinista movement. When an idealistic young American engineer working on a hydroelectric project in Nicaragua, Ben Linder, was killed in 1987 by the Contra rebels fighting against the Sandinista revolution, Brown was motivated to learn technical skills to carry on in Linder’s spirit.
That eventually took him to a two-year graduate program at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, where Brown received his master’s degree in industrial hygiene in 1991.
“Garrett came to the School of Public Health knowing what he wanted to do and where he wanted to do it,” said Robert Spear, then acting dean and now a professor emeritus. “It’s the kind of field that draws socially conscious people.”
Brown showed “fearlessness in telling it like it is. … He was tenacious in holding on and ensuring that we got a fair result.”–Ellen Widess, Cal/OSHA chief from 2011 to 2013
“Of all the students I’ve seen in that general field, I cannot think of anyone who was more committed to the welfare of the worker, particularly the people in the dirty jobs,” Spear added. “Those people can’t complain or make a stink about it, or they’ll get fired. He’s got to be one of an elite group in the field who knows what he’s talking about.”
Two years after graduating from Berkeley, Brown arrived at Cal/OSHA. Yet he also continued his work as an activist. Just as he was settling into his new state job, Brown took the lead in founding the nonprofit Maquiladora Health and Safety Support Network. He still works for free for the network, which includes 400 industrial hygienists, toxicologists and other specialists who advise factory workers battling hazardous conditions at plants in Mexico, Central America, Indonesia and China.
Likewise, this March Brown went to Bangladesh to examine working conditions in that nation’s huge but notoriously hazardous apparel manufacturing industry. He also spoke at a conference on factory safety at the invitation of a top official of the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety. The agreement was signed by more than 150 apparel companies and retailers from more than 20 countries after the April 2013 Rana Plaza catastrophe near Dhaka, Bangladesh, in which a factory building collapse took the lives of more than 1,100 people and hurt 1,800 others.
On returning to Northern California, Brown gathered with professional colleagues to speak about the aftermath of the disaster.
“It’s totally scandalous,” Brown told the group. “No U.S. brand has offered a dime of compensation. Forty percent of the factory owners are not paying the new minimum wage of $67 a month for a 60-hour work week,” he said, basing the figures on reports from Bangladesh manufacturers and exporters who say they can’t afford the cost.
“I’ve been in some poor places. Bangladesh takes the cake,” he said.
In his career at Cal/OSHA, Brown took satisfaction in pursuing some of the agency’s toughest and most complex cases.
Brown “is so focused and so passionate about worker safety that he sometimes misses the bigger picture. He will not credit the employer for doing everything an employer can reasonably do to prevent accidents and illness.”–Attorney Fred Walter, who defends employers charged with Cal/OSHA violations
One example he points to the investigation of AXT Inc. in Fremont, Calif. In 2000, Brown said he discovered that its workforce – consisting mainly of newly arrived immigrants who didn’t speak English — was being exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic. “They were slicing and processing gallium arsenide wafers, eating and drinking in the work area and taking the dust home to their families,” he said. The semiconductor plant was shut for four days while improvements were made. Under a deal later negotiated with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, the company paid $198,655 in fines.
In 2006, Brown investigated injuries to pile drivers rebuilding the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. KFM, a consortium led by Kiewit Construction Co., claimed an excellent safety record. But Brown, who conducted 40 interviews over six months, determined that workers were pressured to remain silent about injuries. As Brown recounted in an article he co-wrote on the case, the bosses for years slipped crisp new $100 bills into the pay envelopes of crew members who reported no injuries. Brown, however, identified at least 13 serious unrecorded injuries, including sickness from welding fumes and a head injury from a fall off a flatbed truck. The employer was able to get the citation downgraded, and it paid a fine of $5,790.
Even though charges often are reduced and fines modest, Brown said, he felt that his work paid off in this and other cases. “I had an opportunity to identify hazards and get them fixed, so people wouldn’t get injured or killed,” he said.
Berkeley lawyer Ellen Widess, who as Cal/OSHA chief from 2011 to 2013 made Brown her special assistant, praises his work. He was, she said, “one of the finest inspectors that Cal/OSHA has ever had” and she lauded his “fearlessness in telling it like it is.”
While Brown served in his leadership role at the agency, Widess elaborated, he improved the skills of other inspectors. “He knew the vast array of OSHA standards. He has an encyclopedic mind. And he was inspiring. Doing the work you do at OSHA, you need the inspiration. You’re turned away at workplaces, and have to fight for every bit of information on how an accident or illness happened. He handled the hardest cases. He was tenacious in holding on and ensuring that we got a fair result.”
But attorney Fred Walter, who specializes in defending employers charged with Cal/OSHA violations, gives Brown a mixed assessment. “Garrett’s investigations are the most thorough, the most professional of anyone I have worked with at Cal/OSHA. When he writes an investigation report, it’s airtight. Anytime Garrett was assigned to a case, we’d have to bring our A game,” Walter said.
“Of all the students I’ve seen in that general field, I cannot think of anyone who was more committed to the welfare of the worker, particularly the people in the dirty jobs.”–Robert Spear, professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health (Photo by Jim Block)
At the same time, Walter said, “He is so focused and so passionate about worker safety that he sometimes misses the bigger picture. He will not credit the employer for doing everything an employer can reasonably do to prevent accidents and illness. He will find a way to place liability on the employers.”
While calling Brown a “dedicated and knowledgeable worker health and safety advocate,” long-time colleague Clyde J. Trombettas, a Cal/OSHA district manager, said in a letter to the editor of a workplace safety publication that Brown’s critique of the agency is over the top. He “leaves the impression that Cal/OSHA is on its last legs and barely breathing,” wrote Trombettas, who declined to be interviewed for this story.
Widess said Brown also drew criticism from her former boss, Christine Baker, director of the Department of Industrial Relations, which is Cal/OSHA’s parent agency. Widess said Baker viewed Brown as “too negative, too aggressive in terms of enforcement and in terms of his public comments about understaffing.” Powerful business interests angry over his comments would complain to Baker, who in turn told Widess that Brown wasn’t an appropriate person to represent Cal/OSHA.
Baker, for her part, denied ever telling Widess that Brown was too aggressive, or that she received complaints about him from business interests. “No company came to me and said, ‘We don’t like Garrett Brown,’” Baker said in an interview.
She called Brown “very intelligent,” “an expert in his field” and “very dedicated,” but added: “He is not an administrative expert. He’s not management oriented.” In addition, Baker faulted Brown and Widess for flouting protocol by releasing information to legislative aides without authorization and for failing to understand the state budget process. “You can’t just wave your hands and come up with the money. No matter how many times I said that, they didn’t get it, or didn’t want to get it.”
When Widess was forced out of her job in September, Brown regarded it as emblematic of backpedaling by the Department of Industrial Relations, and he decided it was time to take early retirement. Brown had admired Widess’ tough approach to enforcement. As he put it, “No backroom deals. No kid gloves for politically connected companies with Ellen.”
Brown soon struck back, first by writing his report arguing that Cal/OSHA had been put on a “starvation diet” by Baker and California Gov. Jerry Brown, leaving it severely understaffed. By his count, the agency had 170 field inspectors as of the end of 2013 — one for every 109,000 workers, well below Oregon’s one for every 28,000 workers and Washington state’s one for every 33,000 workers.
Brown is “an expert in his field” but, “He is not an administrative expert. He’s not management oriented.”–Christine Baker, director of the California Department of Industrial Relations
Brown’s report was the basis of a complaint that the watchdog group PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, filed in February with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The complaint, which remains under investigation, accused Cal/OSHA of failing to maintain the staffing levels required to receive federal funds and said the state has one of the worst inspector-to-worker ratios in the nation. “California leads the nation in many areas but worker safety, unfortunately, is not one,” said Jeff Ruch, PEER’s executive director.
Baker and other Department of Industrial Relations officials disputed Brown’s argument that Cal/OSHA has fallen short in protecting workers, and cited as evidence figures showing decreases in California workplace injuries and fatalities from 2003 to 2013. They also noted that the new state budget calls for increased staffing that would bring the number of field inspectors to 204, and said Brown didn’t take into account management changes already made that are improving performance. As Baker put it in a March letter to a state lawmaker, “California is using its worker health and safety resources strategically.”
In the whistleblower claim Brown filed with the state auditor in April, which also remains under investigation, Brown accuses the Department of Industrial Relations of sitting on, or diverting, Cal/OSHA money. For instance, he said the department failed to use a surplus in the Elevator Safety Fund for inspections even though more than one-third of the state’s elevators operate under expired permits and await examinations.
In an email, the department didn’t deny the assertion about the elevator fund, saying its “understanding of the extent of the current backlog and the emergence of the current surplus in the Elevator (Safety) Fund are relatively recent developments,” and that Cal/OSHA now has been directed to resolve the problem.
Brown isn’t swayed by the Department of Industrial Relations’ arguments, particularly when it comes to staffing, which he says will remain inadequate even if the positions authorized under the new state budget are filled.
Still, he isn’t counting on getting any major help from the powers that be in Sacramento. “Occupational safety and health has almost no friends,” Brown said.
$3,000 grant to the YMCA Children’s Safety Village
LONDON, ON, July 22, 2014 /CNW/ – Union Gas is helping the YMCA Children’s Safety Village’s reduce childhood injuries by teaching children from Kindergarten to grade four about personal responsibility and awareness regarding safety, through a $3,000 grant awarded today.
Scott Harris, Union Gas utility service manager for London presented the cheque to Chris Wick, manager of the YMCA Children’s Safety Village, today at the Safety Village.
The YMCA Children’s Safety Village provides participating children with hands on safety lessons about travelling in cars, riding bikes, walking down the street, being in the kitchen and encountering a fire in the home. The lessons are taught by educators from the police and fire departments and link directly to the school curriculum.
“One of our core company values is safety, both on and off the job. Safety is so important to our employees that we are also very active in getting others to focus on it,” said Harris. “That’s why we support important safety educational programs in the communities we serve, such as those offered here at the Safety Village, which help children in London embrace personal safety.”
“YMCA of Western Ontario is proud to serve the community by offering educational safety lessons to local children from kindergarten through grade four in a safe, hands-on environment at the Children’s Safety Village. The children come away from this program having learned important safety lessons that they can share with their families and peers,” said Mike Ennis, YMCA vice president of camping and youth engagement. “The YMCA Children’s Safety Village is a perfect example of how we are working with community partners like Union Gas and the London Police and Fire Departments to build healthy children, families and communities.”
For more than 100 years, Union Gas has been privileged to work in more than 400 Ontario communities. Each year, the company supports the communities where its employees live and work through thousands of volunteer hours for local charitable and non-profit organizations, major charitable giving and sponsorships. Last year, Union Gas donated close to $3 million to community and charitable organizations in Ontario, including over $928,000 to United Way. In addition, Union Gas employees, retirees, family and friends provided over 17,000 volunteer hours to help strengthen the communities where they live and work. For more information visit uniongas.com/community.
About theYMCA of Western Ontario, Children’s Safety Village
The YMCA Children’s Safety Village, located in the Thames Valley District within the Fanshawe Conservation Area, operates in conjunction with educators from the police and fire departments, with support from the Safety Village Board of Directors, the London District Catholic School Board, and the Thames Valley District School Board. The YMCA Children’s Safety Village is a child-sized village. Through hands on safety lessons the Children’s Safety Village helps reduce injuries by teaching children from kindergarten to grade four about individual safety and awareness while travelling in cars, riding bikes, walking down the street, being in the kitchen and encountering a fire in the home.
About Union Gas
Union Gas Limited, a Spectra Energy (NYSE: SE) company, is a major Canadian natural gas storage, transmission and distribution company based in Ontario with 100 years of experience and service to customers, assets of over $6.4 billion and approximately 2,200 employees. The distribution business serves about 1.4 million residential, commercial and industrial customers in more than 400 communities across Ontario. Union Gas is one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for 2014. For more information, visit uniongas.com or find us on Twitter: twitter.com/uniongas, Facebook: facebook.com/uniongas and YouTube: youtube.com/user/uniongas.
SOURCE Union Gas Limited
For further information: Union Gas Limited: Andrea Stass, Manager, External Communications and Media Relations, Ph: 519 436-5490 or 1-800-571-8446 ext. 5005490, Cell: 519 365-1010, firstname.lastname@example.org; YMCA of Western Ontario, Children’s Safety Village: Chris Wick, Manager of Day Camps and Children’s Safety Village, 519-453-8858 x653, email@example.com; YMCA of Western Ontario, Media Contact: Anne Baxter, Director, Marketing Communications, 519-667-2351, firstname.lastname@example.org
Although it’s fashionable to slip on a sleek pair of shades, shopping for sunglasses should be about more than just looks.
Tara O’Rourke, an optometrist at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, offers these tips for choosing sunglasses that provide adequate protection in the sunny summer months:
Bigger is better
Larger frames are in style now, but they also are more effective at protecting the eye, eyelid and surrounding tissues from harmful ultraviolet, or UV, rays.
“The delicate skin of the eyelid is susceptible to basal cell carcinoma,” O’Rourke says. “Wraparound frames – or those with a closer fit – can also protect the temple area.”
Darker isn’t necessarily better
When it comes to the shade of the lenses, darker isn’t always better, depending on the environment in which you’re wearing sunglasses.
Dark gray and dark brown tints don’t distort color perception as much, while light amber lenses filter out blue light that is linked to macular degeneration. “Those are good for people who want to heighten contrast – pilots, skiers, boaters, golfers,” O’Rourke says.
Polarized lenses have a vertical component that reduces glare and reflection off horizontal surfaces, so they can be a good choice for driving, boating and fishing.
Cords can be helpful
For active types who worry about losing their sunglasses while engaged in outdoor recreation, O’Rourke recommends using cords that can be worn around the back of the neck and attach to the glasses at the temples, such as Gorilla Grips.
Serious swimmers can get prescription, tinted swim goggles for pool time, while recreational users might be fine using regular sunglasses as much as possible when they aren’t underwater. O’Rourke advises against using contact lenses while swimming because of the increased possibility of infection.
100 percent protection is best
The most important thing, O’Rourke says, is to look for glasses that offer 100 percent UVA and UVB protection – or a UV 400 sticker, which basically means the same thing.
UVC rays are blocked by the Earth’s ozone layer, but UVB rays can damage the front surface of the eye, causing conditions such as pingueculum or pterygium, growths on the moist membranes of the eye around the cornea. UVA rays can pass through the cornea and go deeper into the eye, damaging the lens and retina, which can lead to cataracts or macular degeneration.
“You rarely see these conditions in younger patients because they are cumulative, but it’s important to think about protection earlier than later,” O’Rourke says.
Polycarbonate lenses for kids
Children are particularly susceptible to the damaging effects of sunlight because the lenses of their eyes are as clear as they ever will be during their lifetime, allowing more light to penetrate. Also, because kids tend to spend more time outside than many adults, they have more exposure to the sun.
Polycarbonate lenses are a good choice for children, as well as adults who might be doing outdoor chores such as mowing or trimming because they are lightweight and impact resistant.
“They won’t shatter,” O’Rourke says. They are also FDA approved for shadow resistance and 100 percent UV protection.