An effort is off and running in Kentucky to make for better health and safety for workers in one region of the Commonwealth.
Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky are partnering to advance occupational health and safety in central Appalachia.
The Central Appalachian Regional Education and Research Center (CARERC), housed in the UK College of Public Health but incorporating an EKU academic program, has received a five-year, $5 million grant from the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The funds will support CARERC as a cohesive, fully equipped and recognized resource for occupational safety and health research and training in central Appalachia.
Just as Kentucky and Appalachia experience elevated rates of many preventable health problems, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes, rates of occupational injuries and fatalities are also higher than the rest of the nation.
Each of the central Appalachia states included in the scope of the CARERC reports high proportions of fatal occupational injuries related to transportation and highway incidents; injuries in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and mining – industries that are vital to the region and state but also require highly trained health and safety professionals across multiple disciplines to ensure the well-being of employees and the public.
In order to address the urgent regional health and safety needs – particularly in the face of anticipated shortages in the occupational health and safety workforce – CAREC was formed in 2012 as a combination of the academic resources of the Colleges of Nursing, Public Health, and Engineering at UK as well the College of Justice and Safety at EKU. One of only 17 ERCs in the country, it provides interdisciplinary graduate education for students and health professionals in five academic programs: agricultural safety and health, occupational epidemiology, mining engineering safety and health, occupational health nursing, all at UK; and occupational safety at EKU.
Training Looks to Identify Job Hazards
The CARERC works to train professionals who are well equipped to identify and address workplace safety and health hazards, thereby preventing injuries and their associated costs.
A full 70 percent of the current funding goes directly to support students in the CARERC program, who receive multiple forms of assistance and career development opportunities to prepare them as expert health and safety professionals.
In addition to tuition and a stipend, they also benefit from the opportunity to attend professional conferences where they can engage with and learn from national leaders in their field.
Through a field studies course, they network with professionals and gain site experience in diverse industries ranging from coal mining to dairy processing to bourbon distilling. And, most importantly, they learn and train in an interdisciplinary program that exposes them to the complex and interconnected dynamics of occupational health and safety.
CARERC is also partnering with stakeholders in the mining industry to develop new methods to reduce coal dust exposure for miners.
In response to an increase in black lung disease, which had been declining, last year’s CARERC annual conference convened government, academic, industry, and labor stakeholders to discuss the problem.
Author Kori Shafer-Stack, Editor, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in post-injury response procedures and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: email@example.com.
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