One-of-a-kind laboratory helps teach work place safety

6:31 PM, Mar 1, 2013   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The instructors at the Safety Works Training Institute take their jobs helping teach others tips and techniques to avoid workplaces accidents and injuries seriously.

The training center and classroom are located in the heart of the Maine Department of Labor's headquarters.  The classroom, which can accomodate about 50 people, is outfitted with several whiteboards and digital projectors and the classes conducted there can be recorded on video systems for future use or even be transmitted to other sites for remote training purposes.

But what makes the institute special is the laboratory - filled with different stations that help teach people work place safety procedures using a variety of real-world situations, scenarios and props.

"We want everybody at home and on the job to be as safe as they possibly can and have the proper training," explained Dave Wacker, the department of Labor's director of workplace safety and health.  "We provide this free service to anyone within the state of Maine.  Employers, employees, we have even had the general public come here."

The laboratory has a demonstration area to teach about the proper way to wear a harness to prevent a serious injury in the event of a fall, and has a special rig that illustrates how different harnesses work using a weight that is dropped to simulate a person falling.

There are also work stations that allow students to use a fire extiguisher to put out a simulated fire, a crawl space designed to help teach people aboput dangers faced working in confined spaces, a wall full of electrical components to help educate the proper ways to avoid electrocution and shocks, along with hands-on learning areas dedicated to ladder safety and scaffolding.

"The overall focus of the training center is to train folks properly, let them know what can go wrong and how to do things right," said Wacker.  "We want them to go to work and come home with the same number of fingers and toes that they left with."

"You want to make sure that you can get your chair adjustable, and also your work station adjustable, so you can be in that nice neutral position," said instructor Steve Greely, as he explained why they have an office set-up in one section of the lab where they teach about ergonomics.  

"You know from a worker's comp stand point, from a injury standpoint, this is a leading cause for many employers in the state of Maine," explained Greely. 

To drive the point home, the laboratory even has a truck cab to help teach drivers techniques to avoid back pain from sitting improperly.

The goal of the Safety Works program is not just to help prevent accidents and injuries, but in doing so, also seeks to reduce costs for employers by helping them lower the expense of their worker's compensation insurance and claims.

"Obviously, if you are controlling your worker's comp, and you are reducing your injuries and illnesses, it is going to lower your worker's comp rate," said Wacker.

"Not only do we hold the classes here, but our consultants will actually go out into the field and hold classes at the various businesses," added Wacker. 

He says they've had more than 2,000 students come through this one-of-a-kind lab since it opened in January of 2012, but hopes more Maine businesses, schools and even people looking for work will take advantage of the classes that they offer.

"We want everybody to be safe," added Wacker.  "We want everybody to be healthy."





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