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TMCC Safety Center Celebrates 30 Years

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
HazMat Training TMCC Safety Center Image

Hands-on exercises are practiced during a hazardous materials course taught by TMCC Safety Center, Spring Semester 2016.

The TMCC Safety Center has recently put four new self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) units into its hazardous materials training programs, along with four more Level A Encapsulated chemical training suits; the flourishing program has come a long way from its roots 30 years ago.

In 1987, Truckee Meadows Community College President John Gwaltney and Michael Rainey, Dean of Workforce Development and Continuing Education, hired Scott Alquist to teach one public forklift class, and the rest is history.

After success with the forklift courses, they soon branched out to offer chemical safety training and hazard communication workshops. Many federal training certifications followed.

Celebrating its thirtieth anniversary in 2017, the TMCC Safety Center has trained about 55,000 people in safety programs ranging from Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER), to Renovation, Repair and Painting including lead paint removal. In addition to these, the Center manages a motorcycle safety training course for 600-650 students each year.

“We’ve taught programs to organizations as wide-ranging as the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs to Kinross Gold Corporation,” said Alquist, Program Manager. “We adapt to the needs of the client, whether it’s a public organization or private company, and we’re a 24/7, 365-days-a-year operation here.”

A staff of one has grown to five U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-accredited instructors, six Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-authorized teachers and close to 10 part-time subject matter experts.

They teach in any language requested through multi-lingual teachers and outsourced translators.

“For one training program at a downtown casino, we were teaching a group of about 450 in six languages plus sign language, over a nine-month period,” he said. “We were able to hire translators from the University of Nevada, Reno language bank, but I went door to door for every evening during one week to find someone who was entirely fluent in Tegali and also felt comfortable in front of a big group, who was able to be a great instructor.”

The TMCC Safety Center became the eleventh approved training provider in the nation for the EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) program.

Recent Program Growth

Now, the Center provides approved courses for organizations to meet mandates of the EPA, OSHA, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“If it’s required by OSHA, the EPA, DOT or DHS, then we can service that need for any company or organization,” Alquist said. “Federal and state agencies require employees to be trained in some areas initially and then take refresher courses annually. We’re accredited for RRP programs in 37 states.”

On Feb. 13, Alquist taught an RRP course for South Central Community Action Partnership in Twin Falls, Idaho. He discounted the rate for this non-profit. The organization rehabilitates and weatherizes structures to provide more low-cost housing needs in its region.

“Sometimes when you renovate, you run into issues with lead paint,” he said.

A recent area of growth for the Center has been working with new companies locating to the region, including Aqua Metals, Inc. a cutting-edge recycler of lead-acid batteries.

Types of Programs Offered

Some examples of the other safety training programs the Center provides include the following:

  • Forklift Train-the-Trainer
  • Fall Protection Training
  • Fire Extinguishers and Ladder Safety
  • Lockout/Tagout OSHA Safety Training
  • High Voltage Electrical Safety Training
  • 10-Hour Overall OSHA Safety Course
  • Confined Space Safety Course
  • Bail Agent Pre-Licensing Training
  • 8-Hour Hazardous Waste Operations Refresher
  • 40-Hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response
  • OSHA Lead Action Level Training

It has completed a customized Confined Space Safety Training for NV Energy.

The TMCC Safety Center conducts large programs through Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) Train Employees Now (TEN) Program grants. GOED and EDAWN set the budget for Train Employees Now (TEN) projects, and these safety courses are custom-built for each facility; its equipment, products and employees. Nevada Industry Excellence and University of Nevada, Reno are also partners in many of the projects.

The Center has conducted TEN programs for companies such as Nature’s Way® Products, LLC., Ardagh Group S.A., and Fulcrum Sierra BioFuels, LLC.

The center provides speakers at conferences locally and nationally.

Accident Investigations

In addition to training programs, the TMCC Safety Center also conducts industrial accident investigations.

It was called by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to investigate a fatal employee all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident in Colorado, and the Center was also one of the five organizations called to investigate a 2014 accidental fire at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum, in Reno.

Alquist is the Vice Chair of Washoe County’s Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and the Chair of the region’s Radiological Task force. He participates and helps direct some of the simulation drills involved in the region’s triennial airport full-scale disaster exercises. All in all, the range and importance of his work is entirely fulfilling for him and he has only taken one three-year break from 2000-2003 during the past 30 years.

“It’s the coolest job in the world and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Alquist said.

More information about customized training may be found on the Safety Center's website, or by calling Scott Alquist at 775-857-4958.