Seguridad y Salud en el Trabajo
(Safety and Health on the Job
Hispanic or Latino workers suffered a disproportionate number of workplace deaths in 2000, OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw recently told the Senate Subcommittee on Employment, Safety, and Training. Henshaw reported that although they represent 10.7 percent of the workforce, they experienced 13.8 percent of workplace fatalities-most likely because so many Hispanics or Latinos work in the more dangerous industries.
For example, Hispanics or Latinos comprise almost 15 percent of construction employment, well above their representation in the workforce overall, Henshaw told Congress. The construction industry accounts for about 7 percent of all employment, but 20 percent of fatalities.
Henshaw says OSHA is committed to helping employers reduce fatalities among Hispanic or Latino workers. He says the agency is using its entire complement of tools provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Act to address workplace hazards: enforcement, training, information, and compliance assistance.
In addition to translating many publications into Spanish, Henshaw says OSHA is reaching out to Spanish-speaking workers through the following initiatives:
Establishing an Hispanic Workers Task Force to pursue creative solutions to improve the agency's outreach to and prevent fatalities among Hispanic workers;
Using OSHA's toll-free telephone number at (800) 321-OSHA for emergency reporting by Spanishspeaking individuals;
Initiating a national clearinghouse for training programs in Spanish that includes videos, written publications, and other training materials;
Creating a Spanish-language website for employees and employers (see sidebar);
Compiling a list of fluent Spanishspeaking employees that includes 119 in Federal OSHA, 38 in states and territories with OSHAapproved safety and health plans, and 22 in onsite consultation agencies; and
Strengthening OSHA offices' contacts with police and emergency responders to ensure that OSHA receives referrals when an injury is work-related.
Henshaw says OSHA's outreach to the Hispanic community extends to the regional level, where several OSHA regions have developed programs specific to their areas' needs.
For example, OSHA has worked closely with churches and community organizations in New York and New Jersey representing immigrants. In Central New Jersey, OSHA has worked with the Puerto Rican Congress, attending its annual conference and providing literature and information about the agency. Also in New Jersey, OSHA has participated in an informal agreement begun in 1995 between the Archdiocese of Newark, the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, and Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees to address health and safety conditions as well as pay and benefits for workers in the apparel trades. OSHA also contributed material to curricula developed and presented to every middle and high school student in the Newark, NJ, Archdiocese.
In Florida, where many Hispanics work in the construction trades, OSHA developed the Construction Accident Reduction Emphasis, or CARE, program in March 1999, as well as local emphasis programs focused on preventing falls and overhead power line accidents. In addition, OSHA has distributed a variety of educational tools written in Spanish, including a poster depicting the four major construction hazards, a pocket card explaining the dangers of working with overhead power lines, and a pamphlet on ways to eliminate excavation hazards. OSHA teamed with Florida's consultation agency, which provides free safety and health advice to smaller businesses, to offer two 10-hour construction classes in the Fort Lauderdale area. OSHA met with various organizations of Hispanic workers to emphasize the extremely high number of construction fatalities in southern Florida. The results have been impressive. Between 1998 and 2000, the number of falls decreased by one-third, and fatalities
caused by contact with overhead power lines dropped 60 percent.
In Fort Worth, TX, OSHA has provided a 10-hour course on construction safety, conducted in Spanish, and developed a movable workplace safety billboard in Spanish, which is being displayed throughout the area. The Fort Worth Area Office also worked with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to coordinate courses in Spanish for a safety seminar. OSHA's Houston-North Area Office uses Spanish-speaking compliance officers to interpret employee complaints and interact with Hispanic workers, particularly on construction inspections. The Dallas Area Office has worked with the Mexican Consulate to train Hispanic workers, conducting 8-hour seminars on the leading causes of construction fatalities for Hispanic contractors and their subcontractors.
In addition, OSHA's Regional Office in Kansas City, MO, has translated the Fall Protection Pocket Guide and other safety cards into Spanish and maintains a library of training videos in Spanish that address hazards such as lead exposure and bloodborne diseases as well as lockout/ tagout procedures.
OSHA's Regional Office in San Francisco, CA, maintains toll-free complaint and technical assistance lines at (800) 475-4020 and (800) 475-4019, respectively, that provide information to workers, not only in English and Spanish, but also in Korean and Tagalog.
Henshaw told Congress that these are just examples of OSHA's outreach, education, and training programs for immigrant workers. He says OSHA's Hispanic Task Force is compiling information on these and other regional and area office programs so field offices can share information as they develop programs tailored to their geographic areas' specific needs.
Not all Latino and Hispanic employees are immigrants, Henshaw acknowledged, but they do make up the largest single group of America's immigrant employees. Quoting Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, who has called immigrants "the dreamers who come to America for a new start and a better future," Henshaw said, "We have a responsibility to protect these individuals from on-the-job dangers.
"I can assure you," he told Congress in summary, "OSHA will continue to enhance our programs and use all of the tools provided by law to protect immigrant workers and all other employees in this nation."
OSHA Launches Spanish Website
A new Spanish-language webpage on OSHA's Internet site provides workplace safety and health information to Spanishspeaking employers, America's largest group of minority business owners, and employees. The page provides an overview of OSHA and its mission, worker and employer rights and responsibilities, a list of resources for employers and workers, and highlights from the agency's extensive website. It tells how to file complaints electronically in Spanish and offers one-stop service for Spanish-speaking employers and employees. Additional information will be added in the months to come. The page is posted at www.osha.gov.
"Job safety and health depends on employees and employers knowing what they must do to ensure workplace protections," says Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "That starts with understanding vital, basic information about preventing injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Though our new Spanish page, millions more employers and workers in this country will have access to information they can use to make their workplaces safer."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2000 the fatality rate for Hispanic workers climbed by more than 11 percent, while deaths for all other groups declined. OSHA is concerned about the safety of Spanish-speaking workers and has established an ongoing effort to reach across language barriers to employers and workers to reduce injuries, illnesses, and deaths on the job.
|OSHA and HCA Form Alliance
|OSHA and the Hispanic Contractors of America, Inc., have joined forces to promote safe and healthful working conditions for Hispanic construction workers. The goal of the new alliance is to help reverse the increasing number of Hispanic worker deaths from construction-related accidents.
Working together through the alliance, OSHA and the HCA aim to increase Hispanic construction contractors' knowledge of safe and healthful work practices and compliance with OSHA's safety and health standards and regulations. They also hope to increase access to safety and health training resources and related materials in Spanish for construction employers and employees who are not fluent in English.
Both organizations acknowledge that access to training and information about safe work practices may be more limited for Spanish-speaking construction employees and employees than for native English speakers. To bridge this language barrier and other potential gaps in access, OSHA and the HCA will work together to do the following:
"This alliance will greatly expand OSHA's reach in our effort to provide safety and health information and training to Spanish-speaking workers and employers," says OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw. "We wanted to join with others who share our concern and are committed to reducing injuries and illnesses among Hispanic workers. I am delighted that HCA wants to work with us."
- Identify existing and stimulate the development of new publications and audiovisual and other reference materials for Hispanic construction employers and employees;
- Seek opportunities to jointly exhibit and disseminate safety and health information at conferences, events, community-based activities, and through electronic media;
- Work with community and faithbased organizations and other leadership groups to build safety and health awareness within the Hispanic community;
- Encourage bilingual individuals in construction to take the OSHA train-the-trainer course on occupational safety and health standards for the construction industry, so they qualify to teach Hispanic workers the OSHA 10- and 30-hour construction safety and health outreach courses in Spanish; and
- Promote and encourage participation in the OSHA cooperative programs such as compliance assistance, consultation, and mentoring among HCA members.