Back to Success Stories: Hispanic Outreach
Success with Hispanic Outreach
Wenner Bread Products is a family owned independent frozen dough bread company in Bayport, New York. In over 150,000 square feet of production and warehouse space, Wenner Bread Products employs about 500 workers and produces nearly 500 different varieties of breads and rolls. Approximately 70 percent of the workforce is Hispanic
Language and cultural barriers involving the company’s largely Spanish-speaking workforce contributed to on-the-job accidents and injuries. One of the company’s greatest difficulties was that safety training and other information was shared solely through verbal translation.
The Wenner family decided to improve its workplace safety and health culture by pursuing recognition under OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP). Under VPP, management, labor, and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system. Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and workers who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health. Wenner achieved VPP Merit status in 1996 and VPP Star status in 1998.
Through the VPP process, the company’s management and safety team worked together to introduce workers to a newly created safety and health management system and the principles of VPP. As part of this process, the company first evaluated its workers’ educational levels, job duties, and common injuries, as well as culture and background, and then revised its safety programs and communications materials accordingly.
To better communicate with its numerous Spanish-speaking applicants and workers, Wenner conducts separate Spanish-language job interviews and safety orientations for applicants and new hires with little or no English skills. Wenner now makes all educational, operational, and regulatory information available in English and Spanish. The company conducts its daily safety briefings and weekly safety meetings in English and Spanish, and also provides weekly safety tips and monthly safety committee meeting minutes in Spanish and English.
The following are examples of resources provided by Wenner in Spanish:
The company has reduced the cost of this program by using bilingual workers to translate handouts and manuals and to serve as interpreters for medical appointments, labor grievances, and at workplace presentations, including weekly and monthly safety meetings. To encourage worker participation, the company implemented a Recognition and Rewards Program under which workers accumulate points for their participation in activities related to safety and wellness as well as recognition and correction of hazards. The Recognition and Rewards Program motivated workers to care about their own safety and well-being and the safety and well-being of their coworkers. Workers who accumulate enough points are recognized and rewarded with prizes. In some cases, workers’ bilingual skills and services have significantly contributed to their achieving supervisory and management positions in the company.
In 2009, Wenner Bread began providing its management training in Spanish because it recognized that it had talented Spanish-speaking workers with the potential to excel in leadership positions. This training includes computer skills, disciplinary processes, job hazard analysis, job performance reviews, fire warden training, and waste dough analysis.
Since proactively addressing language and cultural barriers in its workplace, the company has experienced a substantial decrease in injuries and illnesses. The company’s average injury and illness incident rate for the last 10 years was 5.1 (compared with an industry average of 6.5). The company has also experienced improved labor relations with its Spanish-speaking workers as the changes were implemented, as well as a significant increase in productivity and product quality.
Wenner Bread has also shared its successes with other companies interested in reaching out to their Hispanic workforce. For example, the company has presented best practices seminars at several conferences for the Voluntary Protection Program Participants’ Association and the American Society of Safety Engineers. In April 2010, Wenner Bread was part of a panel of speakers at OSHA’s National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health & Safety.
Wenner Bread also assists OSHA in training Hispanic immigrant workers in parts of New York and New Jersey. For example, company representatives work with OSHA staff to provide OSHA Outreach Training Program 10-hour courses and other training for Spanish-speaking workers at Hispanic Health and Safety Fairs and other outreach events. In 2004, OSHA’s Region II Regional Administrator recognized Wenner Bread for its Hispanic outreach efforts.
"Obtaining OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program Star recognition and being able to give back to our employees and the Hispanic community is one of the professional achievements that I am most proud of," said Lawrence Wenner, Chief Operator Officer of Wenner Bread Product, Inc.
Elisonia Valle, Assistant Manager to Human Resources, Wenner Breads Products (June 2010).