DOL-OSHA Hispanic Safety and
July 22, 2004
As prepared for delivery
- Thank you, Kathleen, for your excellent presentation.
- Now I want to tell you about a number of efforts that OSHA is currently engaged in -- as well as some possible future plans. Some of these are already paying off. Others that we are planning or will develop based on what we learn today will make a difference in the future.
- As Kathleen explained, in 2000 and 2001, while overall workplace fatalities were falling, deaths among Hispanic workers were rising -- by 12% in 2000 and 10% in 2001. We learned that the service and agricultural industries accounted for most of the increases -- on top of increases in earlier years in construction.
- We know that although Hispanic workers in construction represent about 18% of the workforce, they account for 21% of the deaths on the job.
- To address this deadly trend, we decided we needed multiple approaches. Under the direction of Secretary Elaine Chao, we formed a Hispanic task force in August 2001 to begin identifying steps we could take to reduce injuries, illnesses and deaths among Hispanic workers.
- Under the leadership of John Miles, our regional administrator in Dallas, work began right away to assess what OSHA was doing and could do to improve workplace safety and health for Hispanics.
Regional and Local Outreach
- One of our first steps was to create a Spanish page on our website at www.osha.gov. In just the past nine months, we've had more than 200 thousand visits to this page with an average of 22 thousand visits per month.
- We continue to add resources to this page, including a dozen OSHA publications and ten fact sheets now available in Spanish. In addition, over the past 18 months we've distributed nearly 85,000 publications in Spanish.
- We seen a dramatic increase in the use of the Spanish option on our toll-free help line at 1-800-321-OSHA. Employers or workers call this line and get answers -- in Spanish if they choose -- answers to any safety and health questions they may have. Or they can report complaints or find out about safety and health training classes near them.
- We've also sought to reach both employers and employees through radio Public Service Announcements in Spanish. We estimate over 15 million listeners have heard these PSA messages.
- We also recognized the need for more bilingual staff members -- particularly Spanish-speaking compliance officers -- to relate more effectively to Hispanic workers and employers. Since 2000, we have doubled the number of bilingual staff to 218. Also, we have seen an 80% increase in the number of Spanish-speaking staff from 80 to 141.
- And we are continuing to emphasize recruiting more Spanish- speaking staff. The agency has also appointed Hispanic coordinators for each of our ten regional offices. They are listed on the Spanish website.
- Recently the Hispanic task force put together a glossary of more than 200 useful safety and health terms in both English and Spanish. Given the various dialects of Spanish, this document will be useful in performing document translations. The glossary is available on OSHA's website.
- Another helpful resource is OSHA's interactive software called e-Tools. These programs provide guidance and direction on important safety and health issues. We have two in Spanish, one covering sewing and the other on construction. And our plan is to do many more.
- As a result of the President's budget request, OSHA received new funding in FY-04 specifically for reaching Spanish and other non-English-speaking workers.
- Since many Hispanics work in construction, we have added two Spanish-speaking safety professionals in the Directorate of Construction to help us with outreach.
- Much of OSHA's outreach to Hispanic workers and employers occurs at the local level. Our staff have been involved in a wide variety of efforts to meet the specific needs and interests of those in their area, such as offering:
- Woodworking safety training in Hartford, Connecticut
- Construction safety and health training at many locations
- Landscaping safety information in Georgia
- Training for day laborers in Chicago and Ft. Worth
- Farm safety training for migrant children in Lubbock, Texas
- Safety CD's in English and Spanish for small employers in Oklahoma City
- Fall protection pocket guides and safety training videos in Kansas City
- OSHA offers safety and health training in Spanish in many ways. We now have 20 Education Centers with 35 sites around the country offering training. Through these centers supervised by the OSHA Training Institute (OTI), we have increased the number of Hispanic trainers to over 1,300 cumulatively over the last four years.
- This year alone we've added another 252. We are projecting a record-breaking number of Spanish trainers and workers trained through these programs when Fiscal Year 2004 ends on September 30.
- These Spanish-speaking trainers have in turn trained, in their native language, nearly 17 thousand Hispanic workers. This represents more than a 20-fold increase from 2000.
- Our local OSHA offices also provide training as part of outreach efforts and partnerships and Alliances. Combining all Hispanic training, including the training conducted by our Regional offices and Consultation Services, OSHA has trained more than 60 thousand workers and employers over the last four years.
- We also have 50 nonprofit groups as part of our Susan Harwood Training Grant Program that provide training or develop training materials for others to use. Let me just share with you a few examples of what our training grantees are offering to Spanish-speaking workers and employers:
- Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing training materials focused on hazards faced by concrete delivery truck drivers.
- State Building and Construction Trades Council of California will conduct training on noise and hearing conservation in construction.
- International Society of Arboriculture is creating an interactive CD-ROM on safe work practices for tree care.
- Pennsylvania Foundry Association is preparing silicosis prevention training for the foundry industry.
- Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in New York City will conduct safety training for poultry processing workers.
- Texas Engineering Extension Services is developing photo training materials on safety and health hazards in oil and gas field operations.
- University of Massachusetts Lowell Research Foundation will translate and make available a Spanish versionM of the OSHA 10-hour construction outreach training program.
Partnerships and Alliances
- Another important aspect of our current efforts to reach Hispanic workers and employers are partnerships and Alliances. Many of our construction partnerships include components that focus on sharing safety and health information in Spanish.
- In addition, OSHA has developed 10 national Alliances and 31 regional Alliances that focus on reaching Hispanic workers and businesses on issues such as ergonomics, motor vehicle safety, amputations, falls and work zone safety.
- Yesterday Secretary Chao and Luis Ernesto Derbez, Mexico's Secretary for External Relations, signed a Joint Declaration affirming the commitment of Mexico and the U.S. to improve compliance with and awareness of workplace laws and regulations protecting Mexican workers in the U.S. I also signed a Letter of Agreement reinforcing our continuing commitment to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
- As part of this effort, all our Regional and area offices will be working with 49 Mexican consulates throughout the U.S. to provide outreach, training and assistance to Mexican workers in the U.S. This is a very important agreement. We know it will improve our communications and outreach, which in turn will result in fewer injuries, illnesses and fatalities among Mexican workers in the United States.
- OSHA's premier partnership program of course is the Voluntary Protection Programs. Most of our VPP Star sites have great programs addressing immigrant and Hispanic issues. One such VPP participant is Wenner Bread Products, in Bayport, New York. Wenner has implemented a safety management system that specifically addresses language and cultural barriers among the many Spanish-speaking workers in its 500-employee labor force.
- As part of Wenner's program, training and all educational, operational and regulatory information is available in both Spanish and English. Daily and weekly safety meetings are held in both languages. The company uses bilingual employees to translate materials and interpret workplace presentations so that Spanish-speaking workers understand the issues and can work safely.
- The result is that the company has an overall injury and illness rate about half that of others in its industry. Employee relations have improved, and productivity and product quality have also increased.
- A number of VPP partners have similar efforts, including some in construction, like Turner Construction.
- We look forward to NIOSH's help in identifying more that we can do to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities.
- From our own data, we already know that about 25% of the fatalities we investigate are in some way related to language or cultural barriers. As Kathleen stated, we know that immigrant workers are at greater risk by taking dangerous, labor-intensive, low-paying jobs with little or no safety training.
- We also know that, due to cultural differences, safety practices of immigrant workers' native countries may not be as strong as ours in this country. Further, these workers may not understand the protections they are entitled to or trust governmental agencies to act on their behalf.
- We have many projects and activities that focus on the safety and health of Hispanic workers. But we need feedback. We need to hear new ideas and to explore best practices for reaching Hispanic workers. We want to listen to others who can suggest additional strategies.
- I appeal to you to do the same, share what you are doing, get feedback, listen for additional best practices, but most importantly remain committed to continuous improvement.
- By working together we can find more effective ways to assure the safety and health of Hispanic workers. They deserve our very best.
- Thank you.