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OSHA Region III Hosts Summit for Latino Construction Workers in Philadelphia

On April 15, 2011, OSHA's Region III hosted the Greater Philadelphia Summit for Latino/Immigrant Worker Construction Safety and Health in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The summit brought together more than 125 participants, including workers, community- and faith-based groups, and government officials. OSHA partnered with the Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health (PhilaPosh) and the Mid-Atlantic Construction Safety Council to hold the summit. This event was another example of OSHA's efforts to build on the success of the 2010 OSHA National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health & Safety, designed to reach diverse and high-risk workers.

The Philadelphia summit featured discussions of worker rights and employer responsibilities, with a focus on the construction industry and vulnerable worker populations. A "Voices from the Workplace" panel discussion featured immigrant workers telling their own stories of how they had been injured at work. Their personal stories of changed lives put a very real face to workplace injury statistics. Another panel, "Working Cooperatively with OSHA," featured representatives from community and national groups that have reached out to OSHA and have had success with leveraging their limited resources to educate workers.

Attendees participated in workplace safety and health workshops on proper work safety procedures, as well as recognizing and eliminating scaffolding and fall hazards on construction sites. Demonstrations were provided on several types of fall protection harnesses, including their use and limitations. A small-scale tubular welded scaffolding was set up to enable workers to recognize some of the common hazards of unsafe scaffold building, such incomplete planking and missing cross braces and base plates.

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) provided information on federal wage protections. Free OSHA and WHD publications were distributed in English and Spanish. Bilingual instructors were used in most of the workshops, and OSHA staff was always available to assure the information was consistent with OSHA regulations. Questions were answered in the either Spanish or English depending on the questioner's language.

In conjunction with the summit, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter issued a proclamation (PDF) declaring April 15, 2011 to be Latino and Immigrant Worker Health and Safety Day in Philadelphia. The proclamation urged all citizens to be aware of the importance of educating workers, particularly vulnerable workers, about how to protect themselves from workplace hazards and their right to a safe and healthy workplace.

During the summit, OSHA Region III and the Mexican Consulate in Philadelphia signed an Alliance. The Alliance participants will work together to promote workplace safety and health for Mexican nationals and other Hispanic workers by providing information, guidance, and access to educational and training resources.

The summit's participants provided positive feedback in the attendee surveys, including:

Wished the day's event ran longer so that they could learn more. Appreciated the bilingual instructors and both the scaffolding and fall protection demonstrations. Suggested holding another workshop summit on a weekend so more workers could come. One participant stated that he/she was no longer afraid to voice concerns about safety and health.

Since the summit, OSHA Region III has noticed an increase in requests for training and information. Region III will respond to these requests and continue its outreach to diverse workers. As Regional Administrator John Hermanson stated: "OSHA wants to give all workers a voice in the workplace because a paycheck is not payment for silence. It is not a license to endure pain at any cost."

According to Hermanson, the real sign of the summit's success will be "when we start hearing stories about how more workers are demanding safe workplaces and are not afraid to seek help from OSHA when they're having problems; and when community groups complain that they're overwhelmed with requests for training and information and help."

For more information, please contact Isabel DeOliveira with OSHA's Region III in Philadelphia.

As of June 2011

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