OSHA Region IX Hosts Latino Worker Safety Outreach Conference in Oakland, California
OSHA Region IX hosted a free regional Latino Workforce Outreach and Education Stakeholders Conference on Safety, Health and Worker Rights on February 1, 2011, in Oakland, California. The one-day event, organized in coordination with California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) and the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, featured workshops on safety and health topics, exhibit booths, and networking time for conference participants. The conference was attended by nearly 60 representatives from community and faith-based organizations, labor groups, educational institutions, consulates, employer associations, and other organizations. This event was one of many held by OSHA around the country to follow up on the success of the agency's 2010 National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health & Safety.
OSHA Region IX covers an area of the country with a large Latino worker population, including California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii. While these states operate their own OSHA-approved state programs, federal OSHA provides outreach in these states in coordination with the state agencies. In California, Latino men make up 20% of the workforce and Latina women 12%; but together they comprise 43% of workplace fatalities in California. Region IX is emphasizing outreach to Latino and other vulnerable workers, and the conference in Oakland is part of that ongoing outreach.
Representatives from University of California-Berkeley, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program, and Las Positas and Dominguez Hills OSHA Educational Centers in California gave presentations and hosted exhibit booths. Conference workshops covered a variety of workplace safety and health topics, including OSHA and Cal/OSHA regulations; worker rights, including the right to receive training in a manner that workers can understand; employer responsibilities, including the requirement for California employers to implement effective injury and illness prevention programs; whistleblower protection; outreach resources; and training opportunities.
During the conference, time was also set aside for peer-to-peer networking during which representatives from groups that provide outreach to the Latino community talked directly with each other. These sessions helped the participants establish or strengthen their networks and share best practices. OSHA and Wage and Hour Division staff provided translation for Spanish-speaking attendees during the peer-to-peer networking time. In addition, the OSHA and other exhibit booths provided materials in English and Spanish.
The event received substantial media coverage, including reports aired on the local Telemundo and Univision television stations and National Public Radio affiliate. The Univision and Telemundo stations, the main Spanish-language stations in the area, highlighted the event in their 6 pm newscasts. These newscasts reach the entire Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.
"Immigrant Latino workers suffer and die on the job at a rate 50 percent higher than other workers," said Jose Benavides, HispanicOutreach Coordinator in OSHA Region IX. "Because of language barriers, literacy and other limitations, Latino workers are often hard to reach through traditionalcommunication methods. This conference helped us forge new and effective partnerships and collaborations with community- and faith-based organizations, unions, consulates and other organizations to educate workers about occupational safety and health and workplace rights."
OSHA Region IX plans to build on the success of the Oakland conference by holding a larger event called the Latino Worker Training and Education Fair in Los Angeles in July 2011. The Los Angeles event will feature Spanish-language worker training workshops and exhibits. The training will be tailored to the most vulnerable workers, especially those in high hazard industries.