A new building dedicated Wednesday at the HAMMER training center is easing some of the space crunch there for Hanford workers.
This fiscal year HAMMER is training 94 percent more students than two years ago, and it is logging four times the number of student training days as it did in its first year of operation in 1997.
"We desperately needed it," said Karen McGinnis, HAMMER director, at the building dedication. "We had staff triple-bunked in offices. Classes were scattered all over the Tri-Cities."
Since training began ramping up for new employees hired with federal economic stimulus money, HAMMER has brought in trailers, used space at Washington State University Tri-Cities and relied on space in commercial buildings, including hotels, around the Tri-Cities.
But the new Health and Safety Building will provide 7,800 square feet of additional space. The metal building includes a high bay area, two classrooms and nine offices.
It was built by Fowler General Construction of Richland, Lockheed Martin installed the phone and technology systems, and Fluor Government Group designed the building. Total cost from design to furnishings was $1.7 million, paid for by the Department of Energy.
However, it's not the buildings that make HAMMER special, but its people and programs, said speakers at the dedication ceremony.
"It's a model for the nation in hands-on training," said Gordon McCleary, vice president of the Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International union.
Training is done by Hanford workers for Hanford workers.
The new building will be used for occupational safety and health courses, covering topics such as asbestos, respiratory safety, electrical safety, and hazardous waste operations and emergency response training, including classroom work and hands-on work in the high bay.
"They train in a nonhazardous environment using the tools they would use in the actual hazardous environment," said Paul Vandervert, HAMMER operations manager.
Workers retain training better after hands-on practice, and they also can practice in front of an instructor who can correct any problems and provide help, he said.
Although Hanford's economic stimulus money is planned to be spent by the end of September, demand for training at HAMMER is expected to break a record in April, McGinnis said. The contractor is still is training subcontractors, and the large Hanford employee base requires refresher courses, she said.
As economic stimulus money ends, training demand is expected to remain high as organized labor workers shuffle jobs based on seniority.
In addition, more training has been consolidated for contractor workers across Hanford in areas such as electrical safety and beryllium protection, and less training is being contracted out than in the past, McGinnis said.
Work already is under way on another new building at HAMMER, an operations building with a shop area and offices for facility operations and maintenance and for management of training programs. It's expected to be completed in May. Construction also is being done by Fowler General Construction and total project cost is budgeted at $1.8 million.
The Tri-City Development Council, which has supported the growth of HAMMER, sees the training center not only as a crucial part of the current work of environmental cleanup at Hanford but also to Hanford's post-cleanup future, said Carl Adrian, TRIDEC president.
The new Health and Safety Building has been dedicated to Ines Triay, DOE assistant secretary for environmental management, to honor her commitment to worker health and safety and her support of HAMMER.