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OSHA Hispanic Safety and Health Fair in Wichita, Kansas Saves Lives

The lives of two employees were saved as the result of safety information provided at the Hispanic Safety and Health Fair held by OSHA's Wichita, Kansas Area Office on September 23, 2006.

To meet the needs of a rapidly growing Hispanic population, David McDonnell, the OSHA Compliance Assistance Specialist (CAS) in the Wichita Area Office, and several individuals from the local Hispanic community formed a Hispanic Safety and Health Outreach Committee in 2006. The Committee also included Abel Perez, formerly with Kansas Workforce Development and now President of the Wichita Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Veronica Triana with Unified School District 259, and Jorge Delatorre, a supervisor with Sedgwick County (Kansas) Public Works.

The Wichita Area Office had previously performed some outreach to the Hispanic community, such as participating in Cinco de Mayo events and working with local television stations to air OSHA's Spanish-language Public Service Announcements. Encouraged by the success of OSHA fairs in Florida, the Area Office hoped to build on these efforts by holding its own Hispanic Safety and Health Fair in Wichita. The Hispanic Safety and Health Outreach Committee, with assistance from many other individuals and organizations, organized the Hispanic Safety and Health Fair to help provide safety and health information to the Hispanic community, which now comprises 17% of Sedgwick County's 450,000 population.

The fair featured a free OSHA 10-hour Construction Outreach Training Program course in Spanish. The training was provided by Jorge Delatorre, who is fluent in English and Spanish, with assistance from Mr. McDonnell. Mr. Delatorre previously had contacted Mr. McDonnell about helping with OSHA's outreach to the Hispanic community. Based on Mr. McDonnell's suggestion, Mr. Delatorre became an authorized OSHA outreach training by taking the requisite OSHA 500 Course (Trainer Course in Occupational Safety and Health Standards for the Construction Industry) at the OSHA Training Institute's Education Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

As part of the 10-hour training at the fair, all students were taught to put on and properly adjust a full body harness. One of the individuals who took this training would later put this knowledge to good use when he was working on a project to clean the exterior of a church. This employee and a co-worker were about to enter an articulated lift when he noticed that there was a tie-off point in the lift's basket. He told his employer that he and his co-worker needed harnesses and lanyards to attach to the tie-off point. The employer initially refused to provide the equipment, stating that the basket would prevent them from falling. The employee who took the training said he would quit if the employer did not provide them with harnesses and lanyards. The employer purchased the equipment and the employee showed his co-worker, who had never used a harness, how to put on the fall protection equipment.

While the employees were working in the lift, it became unstable and tipped over onto the steeply sloped roof of the church. The employees were thrown from the basket by the impact and suffered multiple broken bones. However, both employees survived the fall because they were using the fall protection equipment.

The employee who took the training at the fair appeared on a local Spanish-language radio program on October 5, 2007 to discuss how two lives were saved as the result of the training he received at the Hispanic Safety and Health Fair.

The Wichita Area Office partnered with the American Cancer Society to hold another Hispanic Safety and Health Fair in Wichita on October 13, 2007. The fair, which attracted 557 attendees, featured one-hour sessions on various workplace safety topics, including fall protection, trenching, and electrical safety. OSHA staffed a booth that provided OSHA QuickCards (in English and Spanish) on mold, amputations, scaffolds, trenching, falls, heat stress, and avian flu, the Youth Rules Construction Employers Quick Guide, and the Region VII Overhead Power-line Pocket Card.

One visitor to the OSHA booth who picked up several OSHA QuickCards said "Thank you for what you are doing." Mr. McDonnell said that receiving thanks from this visitor "helped drive home the need for and appreciation of the extraordinary work that OSHA does on behalf of all workers."

For more information, please contact David McDonnell.

As of October 2007.