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OSHA Region V Reaches Out to Day Laborers at Construction High-Risk Worker Summit

OSHA Region V held a Construction High-Risk Worker Summit on October 26, 2010 in Hillside, Illinois, as part of its efforts to reach out to construction workers, including day laborers. The summit was co-hosted by the Construction Safety Council (CSC), a professional consortium dedicated to the advancement of safety and health in construction. The summit was an example of OSHA's efforts to follow up on the success of the OSHA National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health & Safety to reach out to diverse and high-risk workers. Workers were a large part of the program at the Construction High-Risk Worker Summit and were able to tell their stories to OSHA representatives and the other attendees, including representatives from other government agencies, labor groups, universities, and community groups. Approximately 35 people attended the event.

The summit featured the following sessions on safety and health topics of interest to high-risk construction workers:

  • Two panels of high-risk construction workers discussed their experiences with workplace safety and health. One panel discussed the most dangerous types of work sites, specific safety and health hazards, and co-worker fatalities. Another panel focused on common hazards at construction sites, personal accounts of workplace injuries and near misses, and amputation injuries.
  • A panel of workers and OSHA and CSC staff discussed how to effectively support workers in exercising their rights. The panel also discussed follow-up activities that participating groups can take to support this effort.
  • Representatives from Latino Union of Chicago, a National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) member, gave a presentation on effective training models for day laborers. The NDLON representatives said that the day laborer community is still thriving because their daily pay is often more than double the minimum wage and higher than wages paid by temporary employment agencies. NDLON is providing safety and health training to day laborers so they are informed of the risks and can make more educated decisions about whether to take a job.
  • Dr. Linda Forst, Professor of Environmental and Health Sciences at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, reported on occupational injury and illness research related to high-risk workers.
  • Dr. Bob Bruno from the University of Illinois at Chicago's Hispanic Initiative Program gave a presentation on what workers need to know to be empowered to exercise their OSHA rights.
  • Tom Dubois, Director of New Initiatives from the Instituto del Progreso Latino, presented on bringing health and safety into employment training programs. He said that safety training has not been a key consideration in placing workers who go through skills training. He believes that deaths and serious injuries to these workers can be prevented if they receive appropriate safety training.

This summit gave OSHA Region V the opportunity to educate workers about their rights and also to learn directly from workers about their experiences with high-risk construction jobs. Region V will continue its outreach and training efforts to workers in high-risk jobs and will continue to identify effective ways to ensure that these workers receive appropriate workplace safety and health training.

The workers who attended the summit provided positive feedback. For example, one worker stated:

"I used to take any job I could get because I didn't know about health and safety or worker rights. As day laborers and Spanish speakers, we are vulnerable to a lot of dishonest and unsafe employer practices. Now that I have received training and even do training, I know when something isn't safe and don't take the job. If the contractor doesn't respond to a serious hazard, I walk away. We're getting to more people - it's working, but we have to do the outreach and educating and not expect such vulnerable workers are necessarily going to file complaints but if they know to identify imminent danger and walk away from those situations, that's a life saved."

For more information, contact Lisa Sciolaro, Labor Liaison with OSHA Region V in Chicago, Illinois.

As of January 2011.

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