Friday, March 14, 2008

Ahhhhh, I feel refreshed.

Okay, who thought of Madeline Kahn? In a pink Vegas style outfit. With Sheriff Bart in her room. Okay, maybe in another post, because me? I'm talking about my 8-Hour HAZWOPER Refresher.

Every year to maintain the... freshness?... of my 40-Hour Hazardous Waste Operator and Emergency Responder (HAZWOPER) training, I take an 8-hour class.

Now my first 40-hour class was supplied by then On-Site Environmental (now Aerotech Engineering) a placement company. Like Kelley Services, but for scientists. I took the class in Vallejo at an adult education school for a week. It was taught by a former Oakland Fire Department/Hazardous Response Team member. We watched lots of videos of things blowing up (crystallized picric acid was my favorite), learned what the placards and numbers on the side of trucks mean, and the last day had a pretend incident. I was in charge of determining what the exclusion zone size should be and how to deal with our fictional spill. Fortunately the secret tip on what was in the ruptured drums was wrong because unfortunately, I missed that one of the chemicals was water reactive and had that been what was in the drums, I would have killed the two men in the exclusion zone.

The best story I have from our instructor was a story he told about his team being called in to a warehouse that had (I think) half a dozen drums (plastic, maybe) that had a white crystalline substance around the rim. Now description this is has a similar appearance to many things, one of them being picric acid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picric_acid). He and his crew went into the warehouse very carefully in full Level A gear. That's a positive pressure full containment suit with a self contained breathing apparatus. The cautiously approached the drums, and that was when they saw something that made them all breathe a sigh of relief: a trail of ants traveling along the floor, up the side of one of the drums and swarming over the white... crystalline... sugar that was in the drums.

For the next four years, I received my refreshers from the Certified Industrial Hygienist for Kleinfelder. His best story was about working on a military base in Colorado where they were told not to approach the prairie dogs. Normally the prairie dogs were skittish around humans, but some had been noticed to react slower. Studies of these showed that they were sick, and like all wild animals carried fleas. The healthy ones stayed away from humans and the fleas could not jump far enough to reach a new host. The sick ones, however, allowed humans closer and the fleas could possibly jump to the curious humans. And give them bubonic plague. Hanta virus may scare you from old closed up buildings, but the black death? That would have me carrying a shotgun and playing long distance Whack-A-Mole if I were anywhere near a place with plague carrying rodents.

My next refresher was through a company whose card I've lost. It was a pretty much one man show, and the refresher was taught along with the fifth day of his forty hour course. Not much there aside from watching Val Kilmer blow himself up in "The Salton Sea" (I think).

Then I did a refresher on http://www.clicksafety.com/. BORING! Even with the online quizzes I did the "8 hours" in about five.

I did another online course the next year because the new company I was at had already had their group refresher. Also boring. Total online time = 4 hours.

The last two refreshers have been taught by NEC. Last year's what pretty cool. There was much rivalry among the groups and the Jeopardy game was fun. The cool story out of that one was people who rent their houses out that become crack houses. Anything that gets a positive hit on a wipe sample has to be removed. Any hit at all. That's because there is no set value for "safe levels" of crack for the general public. So conceivably, if the project was large enough, an entire house could end up being required to be gutted. At the owner's expense.

No real cool stories out of this year's class.It wasn't boring when compared to online courses, but not really outstanding.

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