Human death investigations must by law be properly implemented even when the decedent is involved in or near to the scene of a hazardous materials emergency. This project intends to develop worker health and safety training for those staff of coroners and medical examiners who investigate deaths in hazardous materials environments. This innovative training will be implemented by e-learning applications and by hands-on practice that is specific to the job tasks of death investigators. Federal law, implemented by the OSHA Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) rule at 29 CFR 1910.120, places certain requirements and restrictions on workers at hazardous materials response and waste sites. Unlike other more general HAZWOPER training, this particular effort will focus on the relevant job tasks of death investigators, provide practical training, and be economical to administer for coroners and medical examiners. During Phase I of this project a hazard assessment was conducted with respect to the job tasks of death investigators at hazardous materials emergencies and other situations involving potential exposure of these workers to chemical, radiological and etiological agents. This has led to a list of competencies that death investigators should possess to safely operate during a hazardous materials response or in a contaminated environment. A training syllabus was developed, in detail, to address the learning of these competencies. Typically, HAZWOPER training is more effective when verbal presentations are combined with hands on practice to refine and reinforce the presented skills. Phase I of this project included researching developing and evaluating the effectiveness of various combinations of ways of conducting the verbal (lecture) portion of the proposed course using e-teaching means. The web-based portion of the training includes a mix of written material, still photographs, sketches, quizzes, and automated feedback, scenario-based simulations, and tests. An on-line resource library provides continued e-learning access to the students for later reference. Phase II of the project is combining the e-learning effort for cognitive skills developed in Phase I with hands-on psychomotor training using training manikins, personal protective equipment, hazardous materials monitoring devices and decontamination equipment typical of a hazardous materials response. The combined course leads to a certification of proficiency for trained individuals in compliance with 29 CFR 1910.120 criteria. Phase II will also include the development of 'train-the-trainer'curricula for the hands-on portion of the course, in order to facilitate expansion of he geographic reach of the hands-on training in a cost effective manner. This would assist in the recruitment and preparation of local trainers to provide the hands-on experience. An additional Phase II goal is to develop an online e-learning site for employers (coroners and medical examiners) of hazardous materials site workers focusing on the administrative aspects of HAZWOPER compliance.

Public Health Relevance

Coroners and Medical Examiners have a duty to conduct human death investigations, including those where deaths may occur in proximity to the scene of a hazardous materials emergency. These death investigators may be exposed to contaminated environments, contaminated evidence and contaminated remains. This project will continue development of targeted hands-on training assisted by e-learning applications to provide health and safety training to workers investigating deaths. Unlike other, more general, HAZWOPER training this effort will focus on the relevant job tasks, be practical, and be economical to implement. It will be a self-sufficient and legally compliant HAZWOPER training program for coroners, medical examiners and their staffs.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase II (R44)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZES1-JAB-D (EL))
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Outwater, Theodore W
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D and E Technical, Inc.
United States
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