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July 28, 2000

Labor & Industries awards $4.7 million in worker-safety grants

TUMWATER — The state Department of Labor & Industries has awarded 32 grants worth $4.7 million to businesses, labor unions, associations, government entities and others aimed at improving workplace safety and health in Washington.

The awards, announced today by L&I Director Gary Moore, represent the first year of a five-year program approved last year by the Legislature. This grant program, Washington's first, represents one of the most significant worker safety and health grant initiatives in the nation.

"This program casts government in a new role - that of the financial investor, investing in the safety and health of Washington's workplaces," Moore said. "And Washington is at the forefront, providing a unique opportunity for workers and employers to make an unprecedented impact on workplace safety and health here."

The initial invitation for proposals generated nearly 200 applications with costs tagged at more than $38 million. The applicants were narrowed down to the 32 successful projects for the first-year funding of $4.7 million. Funding is from the Medical Aid Fund, a portion of the workers' compensation system into which employers and workers pay premiums.

The invitation for proposals challenged applicants to come up with projects that addressed hazards they saw in their workplaces. The department encouraged a variety of creative projects, from investigation of technical innovations to training programs. A grant review committee, composed equally of business and labor representatives, screened and recommended the 32 grant proposals to L&I's director, who made the final awards.

A sampling of successful applicants include grants to:

  • Assess "caution zone" jobs that pose a risk of ergonomic injury in both the retail and distribution sectors of Washington's food industry.
  • Perform one-act theatrical plays that deliver safety messages to a company's Spanish-speaking agricultural workers. Topics include ergonomics, pesticides and Hepatitis A.
  • Design and build a vault for training workers on confined-space hazards and procedures, and confined-space rescues.
  • Purchase equipment that automatically dilutes cleaning chemical concentrates for school custodians, eliminating worker exposure to hazardous substances.
  • Develop a web site that educates dentists and dental assistants about the health hazards posed by extended exposure to nitrous oxide gas used to sedate patients and mercury amalgams used in tooth fillings.
  • Produce and distribute a video instructing high school drivers' education students on the importance of safe driving in highway construction zones. This topic also will be covered in public services announcements developed for student and adult drivers.

Click here to see the list of grants and descriptions of each grant.  

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