|OSHA's Tarrytown and Manhattan Area Offices are using a variety of
methods to reach out to New York's Hispanic community.
by Philip Peist and Patricia Jones
|OSHA’s Tarrytown and Manhattan Area Offices are making strides to reach out to immigrant workers, including Hispanics and Latinos who represent 15 percent of the New York state population. The outreach is part of OSHA’s nationwide effort to reduce work-related injuries and fatalities among Hispanic and Latino and immigrant workers.
Tarrytown Area Office
In Tarrytown, the area office staff has been actively disseminating safety and health information to Hispanic and day laborer workers throughout Rockland and Westchester Counties and the Bronx. The staff’s grassroots efforts include meeting and talking with day laborers, teaching students enrolled in English language training classes about workplace safety and health, and speaking to groups of Hispanic business owners.
Office members talked to day laborers about their right to a safe workplace and OSHA’s mission at the Hispanic Resource Center of Mamaroneck. Similar training was offered to day laborers in Rockland County through the joint efforts of OSHA, the Village of Spring Valley, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Plans are now under way to provide training in Spanish on workplace safety and health and employee rights through an association with Neighbors Link, a nonprofit group that provides services to day laborers in Mount Kisco, N.Y.
The Tarrytown Area Office is also reaching out to immigrant workers through an agreement with the Board of Cooperative Educational Services. OSHA staff members have trained more than a dozen classes of students enrolled in the English for Speakers of Other Languages program about OSHA, workplace safety and health, and worker rights. The student population consists largely of Hispanic and Latino immigrants, but also includes Haitians and immigrants from other countries.
Speaking to minority-owned small business owners is another way the Tarrytown Area Office is spreading the message of workplace safety and health. Through work with the Small Business Administration, staff members gave presentations to minority business owners at Lehman College in the Bronx and at the Bronx Business Expo, where most of the 400-plus participating employers were Hispanic. The OSHA presentations focused on employers’ responsibilities to protect their workers, OSHA requirements, and the services of the New York State Consultation Service.
OSHA is also working with established organizations that immigrant workers know and trust to provide them vital safety and health information. The Tarrytown Area Office is working through the Rockland County Immigration Coalition and the Westchester Hispanic Coalition to pass information to workers and their families, hopefully raising their awareness of job safety and health and their right to a safe and healthful workplace.
Manhattan Area Office
OSHA’s Manhattan Area Office staff, in conjunction with Regional Labor Liaison Laura Kenny, has been providing safety and health outreach to local groups that serve the Hispanic immigrant worker community.
OSHA representatives first met with a group of community-based organizations through the help of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). NYCOSH set up and facilitated an evening meeting with the New York Immigrant Coalition, the National Employment Law Project, the Latin American Workers Project (LAWP), Make the Road by Walking, and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense. The meeting
provided an opportunity for hard-to-reach workers to speak directly to OSHA representatives and explain some of the hardships and hazards they face on a daily basis. OSHA’s Manhattan Area Office staff disseminated information to the groups about how OSHA conducts inspections and investigations, the complaint process, and outreach that OSHA can provide to these workers in their communities.
As a result of the original meeting, LAWP invited OSHA representatives to its headquarters in Brooklyn for a first-hand look at how this community-based group is organized. The LAWP put up a Latin American Worker Project tent in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn where contractors meet day laborers and sign agreements that guarantee certain job conditions. Before the LAWP intervened, the local day laborers congregated each day on street corners to pick up jobs on a daily basis, with no worker protections offered. This summer, OSHA representatives visited the tent and provided training in Spanish on the common hazards associated with the construction industry. The day laborers were eager to learn about the hazards and offered to share information with other workers in their communities.
The Manhattan Area Office plans to continue its outreach by providing safety and health training in construction hazards and other areas such as chemical hazards and amputations. The staff will distribute information on safety and health to the contractors who hire day laborers to emphasize the need—and responsibility—to provide a safe and healthful workplace to every working man and woman. JSHQ
Peist is the area director for OSHA’s Tarrytown Area Office. Jones is a compliance officer in the Manhattan Area Office. New York Regional Labor Liaison Laura Kenny also contributed to this article.
|On the Air with Latino Workers
by Donna Miles
|A compliance assistance specialist in Atlanta has won the ear of the local Hispanic audience as an advocate for worker safety and health.
Marilyn M. Velez is the compliance assistance specialist in the OSHA Atlanta-West Area Office. She’s also a radio talk show host on the local Spanish-language radio station, La Que Buena, at 1550 on the AM dial, where she helps educate the Hispanic community about worker safety and health.
During her first hour-long show, Velez gave a short introduction to OSHA and explained workers’ rights and responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. She received six calls during the show from listeners—Latino employers and employees alike—and was amazed to return to her office to find 15 more voicemail messages from radio listeners.
The radio station staff was so impressed with the community interest that they asked Velez to come back monthly to talk about occupational safety and health issues. She has discussed a wide range of issues, including subcontractors’ responsibilities, accident prevention, OSHA requirements, how to file a complaint with OSHA, and how to comply with OSHA standards.
One of her most popular programs focused on fall protection. Returning to her office after the show, she found 20 voicemail messages from listeners, most of them Latino subcontractors wanting to learn more about fall protection and where to get training. Some callers, Velez said, were surprised to learn that OSHA "doesn’t only cite employers, but really wants to help them protect their workers." Another lively program, offered at caller request, focused on the OSHA inspection process. Another promoted an upcoming construction safety seminar for Latino subcontractors.
Listener response to the program remains strong. "We are continuously getting a lot of phone calls from Latino people, not only to complain about workplace conditions, but also to request written information to educate themselves about what OSHA requires from them," Velez said. "I get calls from employers, even English-speaking employers who were told by their Latino workers about the show. Employers want copies of our Spanish-language video, ‘All About OSHA,’ and any other Spanish publications we have. I’m thrilled to see so much interest!" Valez even got a call from a video producer in Salt Lake City, Utah, who plans to use information from Velez’s shows in a Spanish-language video he is producing, "How to Survive in the U.S." "He heard the program through some kind of radio network," Valez said. "I didn’t know that people outside Georgia could hear the show!"
Velez says her radio talk show has opened many doors for her as a compliance assistance specialist. She’s become a sought-after "celebrity" among Latino organizations who request her as a speaker to tell their members about worker safety and health. "La Que Buena has really helped OSHA connect to the Latino community," Velez said. "It’s great to be a part of this exciting outreach!" JSHQ