Boston Public Health Commission
For more than 3 years, the Safe Shops Project has partnered with auto repair and body shops, community groups, health centers, and city agencies to address health disparities in communities that are overburdened with toxic chemical exposure. The Safe Shops Project provides valuable resources at no cost, such as environmental and workplace safety trainings, health screenings, and financial and technical assistance.
This exciting initiative provides training, financial and technical assistance and resources, health care referrals, and direct health support services to help shops improve workplace safety, reduce pollution, support the health of their workers, and be better neighbors. We offer three environmental and workplace safety trainings to auto shop workers per month and send the health van to local auto shops to offer free health screenings once a month. These ongoing social services are offered to improve community health; our partners from the Inspectional Services Department complement this process by inspecting auto shops to ensure they meet environmental laws and health standards.
The Safe Shops Project has trained more than 442 auto shop workers in one vocational school and 74 auto shops in the neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan. Other accomplishments include
- 175 auto shops were initially inspected with the environmental assessment tool, with 102 follow-up inspections.
- More than 145 auto shops were visited by outreach workers.
- 328 auto shop worker surveys were collected.
- 169 auto shop personnel and members of the surrounding community participated in free health screenings.
- The Safe Shops Project received a Model Practice Award for Delivering Environmental Health Services by the National Association of City and County Health Officials.
- The Safe Shops Project was awarded a citation from the Massachusetts State Senate for “outstanding efforts in toxic use reduction, and continuing to make the City of Boston and The Commonwealth a safer place to live and work.”
- The Safe Shops Project will be featured in the July/August issue of the National Journal of Environmental Health in an article titled The Boston Safe Shops Project Preliminary Findings of a Case Study in Applying the 10 Essential Services of Public Health to Building Environmental Health Capacity.
- Produced a DVD of the Safe Shop training video Auto Shop Pollution Prevention: Protecting Your Environment, Your Employees, and Your Business that includes a Spanish/English menu option.
- Created a Safe Shops Tool Box (a laminated guide for environmental and occupational health and safety in the auto shop).
- Created a general Safe Shops Project Web page
- Developed standard training curricula designed for auto body and auto repair shops.
- Collaborated with health care providers to refer auto shop workers to health care resources.
- Created a Palm-driven data collection method that eliminates paper collection and results in automatic updates to a centralized server. The 2005–2006 training and inspection evaluation data for auto shop conditions and worker knowledge are available online.
- Presented Safe Shop Project sessions at the National Association of County and City Health Officials, Association of State and Territorial Health Organizations, and American Public Health Association 2005 conferences, the 2006 U.S. EPA Air Toxics Training Workshop, the 2007 Massachusetts Collision and Auto Repair Show, and the U.S. EPA 2007 Community Health Conference.
- To date, 12 shops have switched to aqueous brake cleaner in an effort to reduce the use of perchloroethylene containing aerosols in their shops.
- The Safe Shops Project was able to leverage the CDC grant award to gain additional funding from the U.S. EPA CARE Program, the Toxics Use Reduction Network Grant Program, and the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents.
The demand for trainings and education in the shops remain high. The Safe Shops Project continues to aggressively seek additional funding to build momentum and sustainability for this successful program. We are also seeking out and encouraging partner organizations to apply for funding opportunities.
The last year will strongly focus on evaluation of the Safe Shops Project. We will continue to work with the target area shops to ensure compliance and secure business implementation of Safe Shop practices. Through the capacity-building grant, the Safe Shops Project will create a toolkit for developing an environmental health educational program that targets businesses that produce environmental pollutants (based on the Safe Shops Project model). We will also seek funding to apply the Safe Shops model to nail salons, which share similar occupational and environmental risks.
The Safe Shops format can apply to similar constituencies with the same occupational and environmental risks as auto shops. The Boston Public Health Commission will share this recipe with other agencies working toward similar goals of environmental health and pollution prevention. This format can be applied to work with employees at nail salons, floor refinishing businesses, dry cleaners, and other businesses both in Boston and in other cities across the country. The Safe Shops Project has also provided framework for other local Boards of Health that seek to address auto shop pollution prevention, the Auto Shop Alternatives Project, Town of Watertown Health Department.