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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary Appendix F Reaching Spanish-speaking Workers and Employers with Occupational Safety and Health Information Tom O’Connor, Consultant INTRODUCTION This paper addresses the occupational safety and health information needs of Spanish-speaking workers, their employers, and occupational safety and health practitioners, with a particular focus on the communication channels for reaching these audiences. Because other papers in this series are examining the background of occupational injuries and illnesses, and the present availability of Spanish language Occupational Safety and Health materials, this paper will not address these issues. SPANISH-SPEAKING EMPLOYEES: DEFINING THE POPULATION The employee population that is the subject of this inquiry is “Spanish-speaking workers.” This covers foreign-born residents who have immigrated from Latin America and, to a much smaller extent, from Spain, as well as U.S.-born individuals who speak Spanish as their primary language. While we are referring not to “Hispanics/Latinos” but to “Spanish-speaking” individuals, little data exists specifically on the latter group. These two groups differ in two ways; first, the former includes a substantial segment for whom Spanish is not the primary language; second, the latter includes people whose country of origin is Spain. For this reason this paper will refer to data on the “Hispanic/Latino” population with the understanding that the two are not entirely equivalent. In addition, while “Spanish-speaking” does not necessarily mean “immigrant,” this paper will focus much attention on the Latino immigrant population for two reasons: (1) a high percentage of the population in this country whose primary language is Spanish are recent immigrants from Latin America; and (2) the recent immigrant population is at especially high risk for workplace injury and illness and, therefore, warrants particular attention in the process of developing strategies for Spanish-language Occupational Safety and Health training, education and outreach. Number of Spanish-Speakers With Limited English The 2000 census included a population survey that asked about individuals’ use of Spanish as the primary language in the home. The survey resulted in an estimate of 18,520,000 Spanish speakers within the working age population range (18–64 years), with which we are primarily concerned in this paper.1 1 U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Census 2000 Supplementary Survey, Detailed Table 35: Age by Language Spoken at Home by Ability to Speak English for the Population 5 Years and Over. Supplementary Survey website: http://factfinder.census.gov/home/en/c2ss.html. Accessed June 19, 2002.
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary For the purposes of developing a strategy for the preparation and dissemination of Spanish-language materials, it is particularly important to know something about the English language abilities of this population. In other words, what is the population of Spanish-speaking workers whose English is insufficient to enable us to reach them effectively with Occupational Safety and Health materials in English? The census survey addressed this question, asking about the individual’s ability to speak English and found the following results: TABLE 1 Ability to Speak English Population 18–64 Years Old Estimate Lower Bound* Upper Bound* Speak Spanish 18,519,675 18,339,602 18,699,748 Speak English “very well” 9,198,012 9,062,738 9,333,286 Speak English “well” 3,364,412 3,291,434 3,437,390 Speak English “not well” 3,787,984 3,694,688 3,881,280 Speak English “not at all” 2,169,267 2,082,805 2,255,729 *Using 90 percent confidence interval. Thus, there are an estimated 18.5 million working age people in the United States, for whom Spanish is the primary language. It is perhaps surprising to find that some two-thirds of these individuals report being able to speak English “well” or “very well.” The remaining approximately 5.96 million report speaking English “not well” or “not at all.” It is also important to remember that there is a substantial population of immigrants working in the United States without legal documents, a high percentage of whom speak little or no English, and who were missed in the census count. Despite a more successful effort at a comprehensive count in 2000 than in previous censuses, a certain degree of under-counting among recent immigrants was inevitable. An analysis of the records of 1,668 Hispanic immigrant job seekers at a community center in Durham, North Carolina, for example, found that a much lower proportion spoke good or fluent English than that found in the census. The analysis broke down as follows: TABLE 2 Hispanic Community Job Information Center Clients, Durham, North Carolina English Ability Number Percentage None 609 36.5 Little 719 43.1 Good 129 7.8 Fluent 83 5.0 SOURCE: Data from the Hispanic community Job Information Center, at the Centro Hispano in Durham, North Carolina. Surveys conducted among job seekers from approximately January 2001 through March 2002. English ability was self-reported. Data from 20 African immigrants was excluded from these results. It should be noted that this group of immigrants is primarily composed of recent immigrants from Mexico and Central America and may not be representative of the Latino population of the area as a whole. However, it is representative of the recent Latino immigrant population, which is likely to be working in the highest risk jobs in this country. The discrepancy regarding English-language capacity with the census figures—with less than 13 percent of this group speaking English well—is
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary striking. We should consider this roughly 6-million figure from the census to be a significant underestimate of the actual number of Spanish speakers in the United States who speak little or no English. DEMOGRAPHIC PROFILE OF THE SPANISH-SPEAKING WORKING AGE POPULATION IN THE UNITED STATES Educational Level and Occupation In order to consider the information needs of Spanish-speaking workers in the United States, we must look at the demographics of this population. The rapidly growing Spanish-speaking workforce in the United States is by no means monolithic and varies significantly by region. In the states that have been the traditional immigrant destinations (e.g., California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey), for example, there is a large population of second-and third-generation immigrants for whom Spanish remains the primary language, who have attained a relatively high level of education and are employed in professional positions and skilled trades. Conversely, in the states that have only recently experienced major immigration flows, such as Arkansas, Georgia, and North Carolina, the great majority of Spanish speakers fit a similar demographic profile: They arrive with little formal education, speak little or no English, and are employed in jobs on bottom rung of the economic ladder. This latter group of states has experienced a tremendous growth in Latino population, with rates of increase from 1990 to 2000 between 200 percent and 400 percent for Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee, for example. Even in these “new immigration” states, however, there is some diversity within the Spanish-speaking population. Deteriorating economic and political conditions in Central and South America have led to a significant increase in immigration among educated professionals, with varying levels of English-language literacy. It is not uncommon in many parts of the United States to find Colombian engineers working as warehouse stockers, Honduran doctors working as hospital orderlies, or Peruvian teachers assembling computers, for example. The 2000 census reported that 43 percent of the Hispanic population of the United States had an educational level of less than a high school diploma, compared to 11 percent of the non-Hispanic population. Only 10.6 percent had a bachelor’s degree or greater, compared to 28.1 percent of the non-Hispanic population. It should be noted, however, that these refer to individuals “of Hispanic origin,” which is not equivalent to individuals whose primary language is Spanish and have limited English ability. If we narrow our focus to look at foreign-born U.S. residents from Latin America, we find that 34.6 percent have less than a ninth-grade education, and 50.4 percent have less than a high school diploma. A small study of Spanish-speaking construction workers by the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health project in 2000 found that the median educational level was 7.5 years. Only 24 percent had completed high school.2 Census data on occupation indicate that Hispanics are over-represented in the categories of “operators, fabricators, and laborers” (22 percent of Hispanics compared to 13.4 percent of the general population) and service occupations (19.4 percent compared to 13.9 percent of the general population.) Again, these differences would be starker if we narrowed the focus to those whose primary language is Spanish. In addition, an important factor affecting the health and safety of immigrant workers is the dislocation in occupational circumstances caused by immigration itself, as explained by Eduardo Siqueira, who has studied these issues extensively: 2 Immigrant Workers at Risk: A Qualitative Study of Hazards faced by Latino Immigrant Construction Workers in the Triangle Area of North Carolina, North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Project, June, 2000. (Unpublished report)
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary “It is important to emphasize that immigrants often work in very different workplaces and situations when they migrate to the US. They may be peasants at home and become service sector or construction workers (which is worse) here. They may be young and inexperienced at home and are asked or end up working in dangerous jobs here without any training, safety or otherwise, whatsoever. They may also be middle class in their home country and end up working in blue-collar jobs here. Therefore, the real issue is how much work experience in the given industry they have before getting a job in it. There is often a large and sometimes drastic change in work environment conditions from their previous jobs, no matter what safety knowledge they had before. Anybody would be affected by this, not only immigrants.”3 Age and Gender The Hispanic population of the United States is substantially younger on average than the non-Hispanic population, with a median age of 25.8 years, a full 13 years less than the non-Hispanic white population. This is not only a function of more children in the average Hispanic family but also reflects a substantially higher proportion in the 18–24 year range, a group likely to be working and particularly vulnerable to workplace hazards.4 Census data corroborate the widespread impression that a great many young men in their teens and twenties often with little prior work experience, come to the UnitedStates from Mexico and Central America seeking work. In addition, there is much anecdotal evidence that teenaged Hispanic males frequently add a few years to their reported age when applying for work, in order to gain jobs from which minors are barred. A recent study of young Latinos in construction found several teens who reported starting construction work in the U.S. at age 14 or 15.5 While Hispanic men outnumber Hispanic women in the United States, it is a smaller gap than is often believed. Females make up 48.5 percent of the Hispanic population of the United States and with a median age of 26.3 a great number of them are in the workforce. A recent report emphasizes that “available research appears to show that Hispanic women face greater risk of occupational injury and illness than non-Hispanic white women. This is due in large part to the disproportionate representation of Hispanic women in high-hazard industries and occupations. A 1989 California study showed Hispanic women experienced incidence rates of occupational injury and illness that were 1.5 times that of non-Hispanic white women. Because many Hispanic women are employed in “informal” industries or in industries where safety, health, and wage laws might not be routinely followed (e.g., “sweatshops” in the apparel, restaurant, food processing plants, or other industries), the risks can become even greater.”6 3 Eduardo Siqueira, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Work-Environment Program, personal communication. 4 U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Census 2000 Population by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic or Latino Origin for the United States. Supplementary Survey website: http://factfinder.census.gov/home/en/c2ss.html. Accessed June 19, 2002. 5 North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Project, unpublished data, 2002. 6 Scott Richardson, Hispanic Women and Occupational Health. Paper presented at the first Hispanic forum on a safe and healthy environment October 18–19, 2000.
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary RECOMMENDATIONS So what does this mean for the development of appropriate Spanish-language Occupational Safety and Health materials? It means that strategies for developing and disseminating such materials should take into account the following factors: The Spanish-speaking working population is diverse in such demographic characteristics as education, income, and occupation. Thus is there is some need for materials targeting individuals at a variety of literacy levels and in a variety of occupations. There is a substantial segment of the Spanish-speaking workforce that has little English language ability and, is most in need of Spanish-language Occupational Safety and Health education and training. This group is composed predominantly of recent immigrants with little formal education, occupying low-wage and often hazardous jobs in such industries as meat processing, construction, and textile and apparel manufacturing. The Spanish-language literacy level of this population is likely to be relatively low, on average, given the relatively low level of average education. This suggests that a high premium must be placed on developing low-literacy materials when designing Spanish-language materials and that approaches other than, or in addition to, written materials must be an essential element of a strategy to reach Spanish-speaking workers. Contrary to popular perceptions, Spanish-speaking women not only play an important part in the workforce, but also are exposed to significant workplace hazards. Efforts to reach Spanish-speaking workers to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses must include efforts to reach women workers. A high proportion of Hispanic workers are young and relatively new to the workforce. All the lessons learned in educating and training young workers in the United States must also be applied to the Spanish-speaking worker population. A substantial segment of the Spanish-speaking workforce is made up of immigrants who are working in hazardous jobs, such as construction, but who have little or no home-country experience in these fields, making their need for training even greater. CHANNELS OF COMMUNICATION FOR REACHING WORKERS In the Community In the next few sections we will look at how information can best reach Spanish-speaking workers in the United States and some of the challenges that different approaches present. In discussions of effective outreach programs to Hispanics in the United States a frequently recurring theme is the importance of trust—that the only way to reach Hispanics effectively is by first establishing a relationship of trust. It is often noted that representatives of government agencies have a particularly challenging task in reaching out to Hispanic immigrants in that these communities are likely to have a high level of suspicion of government representatives. This suggests that rather than government attempting to reach workers directly, it would be more effective to reach them through intermediary agencies that they trust. Some examples would be local Hispanic community centers, churches, immigrant advocacy organizations, non-profit worker advocates such as the COSH groups (committees on occupational safety and health), and unions. Some examples of effective worker outreach on Occupational Safety and Health issues through these types of channels include:
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary In Atlanta, an area OSHA office has partnered with the Roswell Intercultural Center, a Hispanic community organization that provides a wide range of services, including a major project serving day laborers in the construction industry. Day laborers are at high risk for occupational injuries because of their limited access to Occupational Safety and Health training and frequent mobility, among other reasons. The OSHA office has established a partnership in which OSHA staff, professional trainers from construction companies and fall-protection-equipment manufacturers, and local worker safety advocates come to the Roswell site and present full-day safety trainings. Workers are required to attend the training in order to gain access to the full services provided by the Roswell center. In Durham, North Carolina, a COSH group teamed up with the local Centro Hispano to create a Job Information Center in which recent immigrants would gain access to information about jobs. A condition of receiving the job information is that all participants attend an orientation training that includes basic job safety and health principles and information on workers’ rights under OSHA law. For the COSH group the goal was to provide Occupational Safety and Health training and education, but this could be accomplished effectively only by providing the community with what they most wanted and needed: access to job information. Training is conducted in Spanish by native speakers (sometimes in conjunction with a co-teacher who is not a native speaker), with individual English translation provided for the occasional non-Spanish speaking participant. The Santa Clara (California) Committee on Occupational Safety and Health has developed a successful occupational safety and health training program for immigrant women working in the electronics industry in Silicon Valley. The program, called “WELEAP” (the Working Women’s Leadership project) brings together groups of women of various language and ethnic groupings, and provides them both practical training on a variety of job-related topics of interest to them and Occupational Safety and Health training. Training sessions use a variety of modes that are grounded in the culture of the group being trained: story telling, drawing and painting, rituals, dances, and songs. The training uses a four-part “worker story process” that takes a holistic approach to the issue of occupational safety and health that includes gender and family issues in the discussion. The workshops end with a presentation by the trainees of what they learned, again using their own cultural modes of expression. The training sessions provide a social outlet for the women as well as important information about health and safety and workers’ rights on the job. The San Francisco Department of Health developed a successful partnership with a number of local agencies to conduct an outreach and educational program for day laborers, most of whom are Spanish-speaking. Health department staff and other professional trainers conduct training at locations where the day laborers regularly congregate, such as a local day-labor center, homeless shelters, a church, and on the street corners themselves. This project did involve a government agency, thereby overcoming the obstacle of immigrants’ fears of government. By establishing a regular presence in the community, the government agency staff were able to gain the trust of the community and gain good access to a highly vulnerable population. Around the country many unions have recognized that providing services desired by immigrants is the most effective way to bring these workers to them and give them greater access to health and safety and other training. The UNITE textile workers union local in New York City, for example, offers a wide range of services, such as English classes and immigration assistance, to its multi-lingual immigrant membership.
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary These models illustrate a few key principles that are applicable to all worker training but are particularly useful with non-English-speaking workers. Provide workers what they want and you may get an opportunity to reach them with the information that you want to provide. It is difficult to attract workers in general to programs that are primarily focused on occupational safety and health. It is simply not a high priority for most workers to increase their knowledge of these issues. This is particularly true among Spanish-speaking workers in the United States, who are likely to work longer hours, have less free time to attend training programs, and are likely to be more mistrusting of anyone perceived as an outsider. Go out and find workers where they are. We can’t simply produce training materials, file them in our libraries, and expect workers (or employers) to seek them out. An officer of a state Department of Labor wage and hour section once told me that the section didn’t believe there was a problem with non-payment of wages to Hispanic workers because they didn’t receive many calls from Spanish-speaking workers. I pointed out that my non-profit agency received hundreds of calls alleging non-payment of wages, because we had made a point of getting information on this issue out into the community. Only by actively going out into communities and reaching out to workers where they are can we effectively reach Spanish-speaking workers. Some outreach programs have effectively distributed information at soccer games, community festivals, Hispanic neighborhoods and trailer parks, and other venues where the Hispanic community gathers. Make training sessions interesting. Providing an enjoyable, comfortable environment for training creates much greater opportunities for learning and will bring people back in the future. Use Hispanic trainers who are native speakers, when possible. While non-Hispanics may be perfectly capable of providing Spanish-language training, there is no avoiding the fact that immigrants, in particular, are most comfortable receiving information and participating in training in which the trainer is of their ethnic background. It is sometimes possible to use a team-teaching approach with a Hispanic trainer paired with a non-Hispanic. Avoid if at all possible providing training in English that is then translated into Spanish. This process can be used as a last resort but is far inferior as a training method. For one reason, only half as much material can be covered because of the time taken in interpreting. Second, some content is invariably lost in translation and the instructor will be unable to facilitate any discussion among the group. This type of training inevitably is restricted to a simple lecture format that discourages much participation. Provide childcare to facilitate the participation of women workers. In the vast majority of Hispanic families childcare is taken care of within the family. If another family caregiver is not available, it is common for Hispanic women to attend events accompanied by their children. Providing child care at training sites not only increases the likelihood that women workers will be able to attend but also increases their ability to participate in the sessions without the distractions of their children’s presence. Be prepared to use low-tech training methods. Most community training venues are distinctly low-tech. Trainers in these venues should not expect to do Power Point presentations or have other advanced audiovisual equipment available.
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary Through Unions There is a widespread perception that Spanish-speaking workers, particularly recent immigrants, are less likely than other U.S. workers to join unions and to turn to them for information and assistance. While this maybe true for the most recent immigrants, many of whom lack legal work documents and are thus reluctant to draw attention to themselves, it is not necessarily true for Hispanic workers as a whole. It is commonly noted that recent immigrants from Mexico have negative attitudes about unions because of the long history of corruption and abuse of workers by “official” Mexican unions tied to the political establishment. What is often overlooked is the presence in this country of a substantial population of immigrants from Central and South America, where unions have often played central roles in promoting the welfare of working families and fighting, literally and figuratively, for workers’ rights against repressive military-backed regimes. These immigrants, according to many observers, are more likely than the average U.S. worker to trust unions and to want to join them. One survey found that in the 1998 California referendum on the anti-union Proposition 226, 75 percent of Latinos opposed the measure, compared to only 53.5 percent of non-Latinos.7 Many unions have, in fact, established effective health and safety training programs for Latino immigrants and have produced quality training and educational materials in Spanish. Some of the international unions that have been particularly active in this area are the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), UNITE textile and garment workers union, United Auto Workers (UAW), Laborers’International Union, and the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Workers Union (RWDSU). The Internet as a Channel of Communication More and more, business, government, and non-profit agencies are using the Internet to disseminate information. The Internet provides a tremendous resource for reaching countless people with our messages and offers a wonderfully flexible forum for doing so. Just 10 years ago it was difficult for a non-specialist to know how to find chemical hazard information, for example; today a few keystrokes on an Internet search engine provide a mind-boggling wealth of information. For those who have good access to the Internet this is a rich treasure of resources. We must not forget, though, in our excitement over the possibilities of the Internet that many Americans still lack reliable access to this resource. This is particularly true of low-income workers and Spanish speakers. A recent Commerce Department report found that while Hispanic Americans’ use of the Internet is growing fast—a 30 percent growth rate from 2000 to 2001—it still lags far behind other groups. Only 31.6 percent of Hispanics use the Internet, compared to about 60 percent of Asian Americans and 60 percent of whites.8 An outreach and education strategy that primarily relies on the Internet will leave out nearly 70 percent of the Hispanic community at this time. If we consider that those recent immigrants who speak little or no English are even less likely to use the Internet, we can assume that an Internet-focused strategy would miss the vast majority of the highest-risk Spanish-speaking workers. 7 Bailey, Eric, and Shogan, Robert. Defeat of Measure Energizes Labor. Los Angeles Times, June 4, A3, A28. Cited in Organizing Immigrants: The Challenge for Unions in Contemporary California, edited by Ruth Milkman, p. 8. (Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press). 8 A Nation Online: How Americans are expanding their use of the Internet, U.S. Department of Commerce, Feb. 2002. (National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C., 2002).
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary The Worksite: Limitations of Worksite-based Training Training at the worksite has some distinct advantages. Workers are a “captive audience,” that is, they can be required to attend training that is on company time, guaranteeing a good turnout. In addition, training employees of a single employer ensures that the training will be focused appropriately and specifically to the needs of that workforce. The employer’s buy-in to the training, allowing it to take place at the worksite, increases the likelihood that it will lead to substantive changes to prevent hazardous conditions in the workplace. Worksite training, however, has a number of major drawbacks, which can become even more pronounced when conducting training for low-wage immigrant workers. These include: Open dialogue is stifled by the presence of management. Many if not most workers of all backgrounds in this country are reluctant to speak up about workplace concerns, such as health and safety hazards, in the presence of company managers. This is particularly true of immigrant workers who are especially fearful of the consequences of losing their jobs and whose culture is often deferential to those in superior positions in the workplace. In these settings it is difficult to elicit any critical commentary or concerns from workers about safety and health conditions in the workplace. Competition with work demands. When training is not removed from the worksite, it is often disrupted by the demands of the work. Worksite trainers may arrive for their scheduled training on time at 9:00 a.m. only to find that production has been stepped up and the line employees can’t be spared until 11:00 a.m. and the training, therefore, will only be an hour instead of the promised three hours. Breakdowns of machinery or other problems on site often require key participants to leave in the midst of training. Logistical Obstacles. Training conditions are frequently less than ideal. Training may take place in the employee lunchroom, for example, with the trainer forced to make herself heard over the din of a crowd of non-participating employees eating lunch. Acoustics may be difficult. Managers may crowd a full shift of 100 employees into a room in order to get everyone into a training as quickly and efficiently as possible, making effective interaction impossible. Spanish Language Media While the number of English-language daily newspapers in the United States has been steadily declining in recent years, the number of Spanish-language dailies in this country grew from 14 in 1990 to 34 in 2000 and the number of weeklies increased from 152 to 265. Magazines doubled from 177 to 352.9 The Allied Media Hispanic Publications Network reports that 91 percent of U.S. Hispanics speak Spanish at home and 67percent are more comfortable with Spanish-language publications, suggesting that Spanish-language newspapers could potentially be an effective method of reaching this population.10 As noted above, the educational and literacy levels of a substantial segment of the Latino immigrant worker population in the United States are limited. Thus, it is critical to reach out to these groups using strategies that do not rely exclusively on written materials. Spanish-language television 9 Data from the National Hispanic Media Directory cited in K.Campbell, Demographics drive the Latino media story. The Christian Science Monitor, June 21, 2001 (p 14). 10 CASS Hispanic Publication Network. Information <casscom.com/ethnic/hispanic.html>. Accessed June 19, 2002.
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary and radio offer excellent opportunities to achieve this. Several Spanish-language TV networks broadcast nationally, including Telemundo, Univision, Azteca America, and Telefutura, and have huge viewing audiences among the Spanish-speaking population. In addition, there are currently 594 U.S. radio stations that broadcast in Spanish. These radio and television outlets represent other powerful potential outreach channels for occupational safety and health information targeting Spanish speakers. WHAT ARE THE PRIORITY CONTENT NEEDS FOR SPANISH-LANGUAGE WORKER TRAINING AND EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS? Needs for Spanish-language Occupational Safety and Health materials and training can be divided into four general areas. Basic information on OSHA and workers’ rights under OSHA standards Basic “hazard awareness” Skills for addressing work hazards and protecting one’s health and safety on the job Industry- or hazard-specific materials and training Basic Information on OSHA and Workers’ Rights A 2000 study of Latino construction workers in North Carolina found that the workers had a low level of knowledge of basic health and safety laws in this country. Participants in the study were asked, “If you thought that there was a dangerous situation at work and the boss wasn’t doing anything to correct the problem and you wanted to make a complaint about the situation, do you know what you could do to make a complaint?” Only 1 of the 45 respondents named the Department of Labor, while not a single respondent mentioned OSHA. After responding to this question participants were asked if they had ever heard of OSHA. Only 15 out of 43 (35 percent) said they had heard of OSHA and were able to explain something about its role.11 This study supports a contention frequently made by educators and advocates who work with recent immigrants that the greatest need among this population is basic education on OSHA law and workers’ rights to safe and healthy conditions under these laws. A number of Occupational Safety and Health educators who work with Spanish-speaking workers noted that the greatest need for training among the immigrant worker population is not technical information but training on how to use the rights that OSHA gives them to protect their health and safety on the job. One educator who works with meat processing workers commented: “Training to shift power—it’s important to include that workers are not vulnerable because of race or immigrant status. Workers in general wield less power in the workplace and this power differential is especially acute among immigrant and minority workers for a number of reasons. However training should not only be about increasing knowledge among workers, but about changing this power differential.”12 11 Immigrant Workers at Risk: A Qualitative Study of Hazards Faced by Latino Immigrant Construction Workers in the Triangle Area of North Carolina, North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Project, June, 2000 (unpublished report). 12 Susan Cameron, United Food and Commercial Workers Union, personal communication.
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary Hazard Awareness Clearly, training on workers’ rights under OSHA, however, is not sufficient in itself. Spanish-speaking workers with little prior safety and health training often are in need of basic health and safety “hazard awareness” training,to raise their level of awareness of the existence of hazards in their workplaces that they may not recognize as the potential source of serious health problems (e.g., chemical and ergonomic hazards) or that they may simply see as unavoidably “part of the job.” A number of good tools and materials are currently available in Spanish for this type of hazard awareness training from sources such as the UC, Berkeley’s, Labor Occupational Health program, the UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health program, COSH groups, and unions. The reader is advised to consult Marianne Brown’s white paper in this series, which addresses this in greater detail. Skills in Addressing Work Hazards In addition to knowledge about work hazards there is also a great need for training of Latino immigrant workers on how to address those hazards. A number of useful training materials and techniques have been developed for this purpose, some of which are currently available in Spanish; others would need to be translated. It is important that this training focus on the realities that immigrant workers face. We must recognize that many of these workers are fearful of making complaints for a variety of reasons. Simply providing them with information about the hazards and about their rights under OSHA to protect themselves from these hazards misses the key point that this information may not result in any changes. Training should include a focus on real-life problem solving in the workplace, given the reality that many workers will not be willing to make a complaint and that many of them believe, correctly, that the OSHA laws that are intended to protect them from retaliation often fail to do so. A number of simple small group exercises have been developed that pose problem situations and ask participants to develop solutions. This type of exercise is valuable in encouraging immigrant workers to consider their options when faced with a hazardous work situation and to work on developing creative solutions. Industry- and Hazard-Specific Materials and Training Finally, there is a need for materials and training specifically targeting industries and hazards in which Spanish-speaking workers predominate. The priorities in terms of the content of this training should be based upon the results of the analysis of injury and illness data among Hispanic workers that is being reported in another white paper in this series. We can assume, however, that priority target industries will include construction, meat processing, garment and textile industries, and agriculture, to name a few of the most likely targets. As noted earlier in this paper, it is important to keep in mind the varied audiences for these materials, ranging from educated professionals to very-low literacy workers. LITERACY ISSUES In designing materials for Spanish-speaking workers it is not enough to simply take existing materials and translate them into Spanish. This may serve the purposes of a certain segment of the population—the more educated segment—but it will fail to meet the needs of those workers who most likely will be in high-hazard jobs. While no hard data is available on Spanish-language literacy among Spanish speakers in the United States, we do know that 13 percent of the population of Mexico, the
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary largest source of Spanish-speaking immigrants to the United States is illiterate in Spanish.13 Given the fact that poor, less educated, rural residents of Mexico are the most likely to emigrate to the United States, the proportion of Mexican immigrants who are illiterate in Spanish is probably higher than this. It bears mentioning that this lesson regarding literacy is an important one for English speakers as well as Spanish speakers. The 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) found that between 21 percent and 23 percent of U.S. adults are functioning at the lowest level of literacy. At most, people at this level are able to perform tasks involving a brief, uncomplicated text, but many do so with difficulty. An additional 25 percent to 28 percent of the participants are functioning at Level 2, which the Department of Education describes as “more varied than those at Level 1 but still quite limited.” They have “considerable difficulty carrying out tasks requiring them to use long texts or do 2-step calculations.”14 Most Occupational Safety and Health documents currently available for workers, in English and in Spanish, are written at too high a reading level to enable the majority of workers to comprehend the information. One study found that the average worker cannot understand 40 percent of the content of the information on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).15 Another analysis done for OSHA found that the average MSDS was written at a college level, well above the reading level of most workers.16 Similarly, the Labor Occupational Health program of UC, Berkeley, conducted a review of 25 health and safety materials produced by government agencies, unions, educators, and companies and found that the average reading level was college level. Only four of the samples were at or below the eight-grade level, the level that the program recommends for widespread comprehension.17 This trend is true not only for printed material but also for website content. One study that examined the suitability of website content for low-literacy, non-English-speaking users concluded that “perhaps the greatest gap we found in content is material for the 44 million adults in the United States who lack functional literacy skills to perform everyday tasks. Of the 1,000 sites we reviewed we found only 10 that were appropriate for limited-literacy adults.”18 There are a number of good resources available to assist Occupational Safety and Health trainers in preparing low-literacy materials. These include Teaching About Job Hazards: A Guide for Workers and their Health Providers by Nina Wallerstein and Harriet Rubenstein. This book provides an excellent overview of effective adult education and training methods, guidelines for providing education during screening programs, preparing factsheets and training materials, and evaluating health and safety education. The UC, Berkeley, Labor Occupational Health program’s excellent book The Right to Understand: Linking Literacy to Health and Safety Training also provides an extensive guide to effective training and materials development for low-literacy workers. The latter book provides a good summary of the techniques for effective materials development for low-literacy audiences. These principles should be kept in mind when preparing Spanish-language materials for workers in the U.S. 13 CIA World Factbook 2002. www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/mx.html. Accessed June 19,2002. 14 Lynn Jenkins and Stephane Baldi, 1992. Adult Literacy in America, U.S. Department of Education. National Adult Literacy Survey (US Department of Education, Washington, D.C.). 15 “Rights and Realities: A Critical Review of the Accessibility of Information on Hazardous Chemicals.” Sattler, Barbara. Occupational Medicine: State of the Art Reviews, April–June 1992 (pp. 189–196). 16 The Right to Understand: Linking Literacy to Health and Safety Training. By Elizabeth Szudy and Michele Gonalez Arroyo, Labor Occupational Health Program, UC-Berkeley (1994, Berkeley, CA). 17 Ibid, p. 33. 18 “Online Content for Low-Income and Underserved Americans.” The Children’s Partnership. Undated. <http://www.childrenspartnership.org/pub/low_income/>. Accessed June 19, 2002.
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary Writing Establish your priority message. Organize text into short, logical sections. Use words that are easy to understand. Define technical terms. Keep sentences short and simple. Use a conversational style and active voice. Design Use large type. Emphasize important points by underlining, bold type, italics, and boxes. Use wide margins. Illustrations Use simple line drawings. Illustrate the correct way to do things, not the wrong way. Avoid abstract graphs and charts. (Adapted from The Right to Understand: Linking Literacy to Health and Safety Training. By Elizabeth Szudy and Michele Gonalez Arroyo, Labor Occupational Health Program, UC, Berkeley.) Rather than repeating all the lessons from the resources cited above the reader is encouraged to consult them for further guidance on producing effective materials for low-literacy learners. TRANSLATION ISSUES In the experience of this author and that of a number of other experts consulted for this paper, the quality of available Spanish-language Occupational Safety and Health materials is mixed. A review of Spanish-language Occupational Safety and Health documents currently available on the Internet found that the majority are of good quality, but there are some notable exceptions. In some cases translations clearly were not checked by a native speaker and the results are confusing and even misleading. For example, a translation of a fact sheet on the OSHA fall protection standard states in the Spanish version that the standard has been effective, as in “successful,” since a given date; the original meaning was that the standard has been “in effect” since that date. Equally confusing and misleading errors occur throughout the document. Similarly, a Spanish-language guidance document recently placed on the OSHA website was filled with errors and garbled language. (The NIOSH Spanish-language website is of good quality.) One expert consulted on this issue contends that most available Spanish-language Occupational Safety and Health training materials in the United States are of inferior quality. Dr. Fernando Marroquin of the University of Alabama suggests that the problem is a combination of two factors: Many of the people doing these translations are not actually fully literate in Spanish and the translators are often not familiar with Occupational Safety and Health terminology. He suggests that the first problem is caused by translations that are often done by second-generation Latinos in this country whose Spanish is learned haphazardly “on the street” and is inadequate to do complex technical translations.
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary Country-Specific Spanish: Not a Major Barrier Non-specialists often refer to the differences in Spanish language usage in different countries, suggesting that it is nearly impossible to create materials that are readable by all Spanish speakers. While regional and national differences certainly exist, these differences are small in relation to the commonalities. If materials are produced using “standard” Spanish (i.e., avoiding local idiomatic expressions or words used only in specific countries), it is not difficult to create materials in a language understood by all Spanish speakers. As one expert put it, “An educated writer from any Spanish-speaking country is perfectly capable of expression, on any subject, that is clear and unambiguous to an educated reader from any other Spanish-speaking country. Period.”19 The Use of “Spanglish” The substantial presence in the United States of Mexican-born immigrants has resulted in the development of an entire vocabulary of hybrid words mixing Spanish and English. Many of these are work-related terms, which immigrant workers may know only in “Spanglish” or English but not in Spanish. For example, in construction work Latino immigrants, particularly Mexicans, will often refer to the finisheros and the chitroqueros to describe the finish carpenters and sheetrock installers. Some translators insist that these neologisms are not legitimate Spanish words and should never be used in educational materials. Others, myself included, believe that the most important thing in developing educational materials is to ensure comprehension. If you need to use a word that is not accepted by the Real Academia in Madrid but is the word used by your entire target audience to describe a given concept, you are better off using that word. Because many Latino immigrant workers learn a trade in the United States, they may know many of the English terms for work-related concepts but not the Spanish words. Thus, it may be useful in some cases to use both the Spanish and English words for equipment, job functions, etc. It does little good, for example, to refer in a document to madera contrachapada if every Latino construction worker in the U.S. knows it as el plywood. Machine Translation: Not a Reliable Option at This Time. High hopes have been placed on the possibility that computer-based machine translation systems could take on much of the burden of written translations. These expectations, however, have so far failed to materialize for the most part. A number of software programs for this purpose are widely available, but the results are uniformly unsatisfactory. As the programs themselves warn users, they are useful only in to giving a general idea of the meaning, not to provide a precise translation. The translated output can, in fact, provide an idea of the content, but it can be painful to read and can be misleading. The following is Spanish to English translation of a sample of text from of a NIOSH document: In addition to the injuries, the materials and dangerous conditions of work also constitute a preoccupation for the adolescent workers. It is known less on this field than on the effects of the injuries (that have an immediate impact and that are possible to be counted and to be classified as far as the cause). The dangerous exhibitions of adolescent workers to materials and conditions of work could be in an immediate disease; nevertheless, it is possible that the disease cannot be detected per 19 “Alli no se habla español” on the website of Contact International-the Center for Technical Translation at <http://www.cicenter.com/a_espanol.htm>. Accessed on June 19, 2002.
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary months or years after the exhibition. The adolescent workers could be exposed to pesticidas in the work of farm and taking care of the turf, benzene in powerboats, lead in the adjustment of bodies, asbestos and silica in the work of construction and maintenance, and high levels of noise in the manufacturing industry, the construction, and also preoccupation by the possibility that has arisen the fatigue to study and to work could contribute to injuries between adolescent workers. The use of translation software to translate Web pages has also been much touted on the Internet recently. This application appears to be even less useful, at this point, than the use of software to translate blocks of text. The translated output is often confusing to the point of being unreadable. A typical example, a Spanish to English translation of a NIOSH Web page, follows: The reactions begin of ordinary to the few minutes of the exhibition to latex, but hours can happen later and can produce different symptoms. The slight reactions present/display reddening, irritation, or picazón to the skin. Acute reactions can include respiratory symptoms such as nasal secretion, estornudos, picazón to the eyes or throat and asthma (difficulty to breathe, periods of cough and jadeo). In rare occasions, a shock state can take place; but a reaction that puts in danger the rare life time is the first symptom of the allergy to látex. These reactions are similar to the observed ones in some allergic people after undergoing a bee puncture. Clearly, the software at this point in its development is not useful as a substitute for human translation. Some proponents of machine translation have argued that these systems can be effectively used in conjunction with human translators, doing the “heavy lifting” of rough translations of long documents, which can then be polished by the human reviewer.20 This may be of some value in settings like United Nations or European Union offices, where thousands of pages must be translated daily. It is debatable whether the output of the machine translators is, in fact, better than nothing or if it requires more time and effort to fix errors in sentence structure and translation than it saves time in providing correctly translated words. LIMITATIONS OF WRITTEN INFORMATION ALONE Most of the people who will read this paper and participate in this conference are, like myself, focused on the written word as the primary means of transmitting and gathering information. When we want to get a message across to a segment of the population, our first thought is to put it into writing. Until recently our next step would have been to have this information printed as fact sheets or reports. Now we are equally inclined to publish this information on websites, making it instantly available to millions of readers, but we tend to forget that the majority of the population do not, in fact, get their information from written sources. Newspaper readership has declined dramatically in recent years, while the number of Americans who get their news primarily from television is at record high levels. Adult educators commonly point to the maxim that we all learn best when we receive a message through a number of channels—seeing and hearing it—and when we have the opportunity to think critically about the message and put it into practice in some form. Written materials by themselves, whether published as printed fact sheets or posted on websites, are unlikely to reach a broad audience. They are most effective when used as part of a broader communication strategy that 20 Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language, David Crystal, editor, p. 353. (Cambridge, England; Cambridge University Press, 1997)
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary includes group training in community, union, or workplace settings or in conjunction with one-on-one patient education. Written materials may not be the most important priority for the Spanish-speaking workers at highest risk for occupational injury and illness. As one worker advocate commented in considering the question of what is most needed for Latino immigrant workers, “So what’s the answer? Producing more materials is not the real solution (although it would help). There are lots of materials out there now. The issue is outreach. Immigrant and undocumented workers are not likely to find their way to the OSHA Web page or call up a U.S. government agency when they have a problem. They are comfortable in their community organizations, churches, etc., and with people from their community. This is why OSHA needs to provide funding to organizations that have the ability and knowledge to reach workers where they are comfortable.”21 Jim Platner of the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights, who has studied construction safety issues for many years, emphasizes that written materials alone are insufficient and that materials must be supplemented by on-the-job safety training. “Availability of translators or bilingual co-workers might be of little use when someone yells “look out below,” as something falls off the catwalk over your head. While training materials are increasingly available in Spanish, critical skills are learned by observation of co-workers or journey-level workers who know the job, practicing the job with critical evaluation of performance, close supervision when you are new to a job, and other applied learning experiences. Translating these learning experiences must go beyond translating textbooks and fact sheets in order to successfully prevent occupational injury and disease in construction. While no specific research on the contribution of language issues to falls in Hispanic construction workers was found, it appears to be an important area for further attention and research. For example, the top cause of falls among Hispanic construction workers involves falls from scaffolds that are being put up or taken down. A closer look at this task might reveal that communication problems or training deficiencies could be contributing to the resulting injuries.”22 SELECTING EFFECTIVE TRAINERS In this author’s experience and in that of a number of people consulted for this paper, a common story is heard about worksite-based training in Spanish. In many cases a safety professional or other company manager presents safety information in English to the employees, which is then interpreted in Spanish for the Spanish-speaking employees by a Latino employee who is bilingual. Or the bilingual employee may simply be given material in English and told to pass this information on to the Spanish speakers. This intermediary, in the vast majority of cases, has no safety and health background and no education or training experience.In organizations with large Spanish-speaking workforces these bilingual Latino intermediaries may be designated as the link between management and the Latino employees and take on important roles in the organizations, sometimes being assigned 21 Jordan Barab, AFL-CIO Health and Safety Department, personal communication. 22 Jim Platner “Language and communication problems might contribute to the risks faced by Hispanic Workers,” Conference Report from the First Hispanic Forum on a Safe and Healthy Environment, available at <http://www.geocities.com/hispanic_eosh/doc.html>. Accessed on June 19, 2002.
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary tasks and given responsibilities far beyond their training. In these circumstances the English-speaking trainer has no assurance that the content workers are receiving is accurate or complete. English-speaking trainers may also conduct oral presentations at the worksite in English and then pass out written information in Spanish, as in the case reported by this Latino construction worker: “They give us a ‘safety’ every week, every Monday. A paper comes around in Spanish and in English. The supervisors read it out loud in English and give us the Spanish one to read. And we sign it.”23 While we should recognize that these employers are at least making some effort to provide safety information, which is more than what some employers do, this approach is likely to have limited effectiveness. EMPLOYERS’ NEEDS FOR SPANISH LANGUAGE INFORMATION Defining the Population: Spanish-speaking Employers A 1997 Census Bureau survey of business owners gives us a fairly detailed profile of Spanish-speaking business owners in the United States (including Spaniards). Four states, California (336,400), Texas (240,400), Florida (193,900) and New York (104,200), accounted for 73 percent of these firms. Table 3 includes those industry sectors in which Hispanics employ a substantial number of people. TABLE 3 Hispanic-owned Business with at Least One Employee by Sector. Industry Sector Firms Employees Construction 31,478 168,873 Manufacturing 10,173 171,738 Retail trade 48,713 324,474 Wholesale trade 14,125 94,281 Service industries 70,838 463,889 SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau 1997 Survey of Minority-Owned Business Enterprises: Hispanic, Washington, D.C. In addition, Hispanics own 5,925 businesses in the agricultural services, forestry, and fishing sector, employing 25,955 people. For our purposes in assessing needs for Spanish-language materials and training it is interesting to note the large number of employees in both the construction and the manufacturing sectors in Hispanic-owned businesses. Unfortunately, we have no data as to the English-language abilities of these business owners or that of their employees. We do know by ample anecdotal evidence from a wide range of sources around the country that Hispanic business owners in 23 Quote from an interview reported in Immigrant Workers at Risk: A Qualitative Study of Hazards faced by Latino Immigrant Construction Workers in the Triangle Area of North Carolina, North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Project, June, 2000. (Unpublished report)
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary the construction industry are most likely to hire a predominantly Hispanic workforce. These census data verify a widely held perception about these owners that they are concentrated in the “special trade contractors” sector. This sub-group accounts for approximately 80 percent of the construction firms owned by Hispanics (or 25,110 firms) and employs 120,791 people. Again, we do not have a count by language ability or ethnicity of this group of employees, but we can assume that at least a large proportion is Spanish-speaking. In the manufacturing sector there is no particular pattern, with Hispanic ownership spread across a range of sub-categories. In the service sector two categories with significant workplace hazards are notably represented: auto repair and services, with 11,662 firms employing 43,534 people, and health services, with 16,900 firms employing 96,349 people. Table 4 indicates the breakdown of these business owners by country of origin. TABLE 4 Hispanic-Owned Firms by Country of Origin, 1997 Ethnic Origin Firms Receipts (000s) Total 1,199,900 186,300 Mexican 472,000 73,700 Cuban 125,300 26,500 Unspecified/other* 475,800 61,700 Puerto Rican 69,700 7,500 Spaniard 57,200 16,900 *This category includes unspecified written-in “Hispanic Latin-American” and “Other Hispanic” responses. Recommendations for Reaching Spanish-Speaking Employers What does this mean for planning strategies for developing and disseminating Occupational Safety and Health materials in Spanish aimed at business owners? This is somewhat difficult to interpret in that we don’t know with any certainty the extent that Spanish-language materials are needed by these business owners (without knowing their English-language capacities.) Anecdotal evidence suggests that a high percentage of Hispanic employers in the construction industry may not be fluent in English and would benefit from Spanish-language materials. Thus, it would be advisable to include a focus on the construction industry when developing materials in Spanish for employers. The above data also suggests that the auto service and repair industry may be an area where many employers could benefit from Spanish-language materials. A report from the First Hispanic Forum on a Safe and Healthy Environment, in fact, included as one of its principal recommendations to target and involve Hispanic construction contractors in Occupational Safety and Health. The report noted that “Hispanic workers in construction include managers. Although some may be self-employed and combine management with production work, managers were among the top five Hispanic construction occupations by number. Hispanic managers and contractors are an important group for future partnering. They are likely partners for Spanish-language safety and health materials, and they can help to develop, test, and disseminate best practices to help raise the standard of safety practice in the industry.”24 The census data cited above support the contention that Hispanic contractors form a significant subset of the construction industry. A number of people consulted for this paper reiterated 24 Conference Report-Actions, from the First Hispanic Forum on a Safe and Healthy Environment, available on the conference website at <http://www.geocities.com/hispanic_eosh/doc.html>. Accessed on June 19, 2002.
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Safety is Seguridad: A Workshop Summary the above comments regarding the importance of reaching out to Hispanic construction managers. There is a widespread perception that Hispanic-owned construction companies are more likely to cut corners on safety. This perception was supported by interviews with Latino construction workers in North Carolina, a number of whom stated that in their experience, Latino employers were worse to work for than non-Latinos.25 The North Carolina study and discussions with a number of experts for this paper also both pointed to the key role played by a person commonly found in the construction industry: the bilingual Latino supervisor. These individuals often play a role as trainers (to the extent that on-the-job training is done), interpreters, and intermediaries between workers and management. They are in a good position to reach their Hispanic employees because of language and cultural commonalities. At the same time, however, they may have received little or no training in safety and health. A former OSHA compliance officer reports that she has inspected many incidents involving Latino worker fatalities and found that in many cases, a language barrier was not involved—that the supervisor was Latino. But, she found, the supervisor was often poorly trained and ill-equipped to carry out the functions of a supervisor, including overseeing safety and health conditions.26 Training of these bilingual supervisors, particularly in the construction industry, could have a significant impact. Training should emphasize the supervisor’s responsibility for ensuring safe and healthy working conditions. In addition, training should aim to overcome the “macho” attitudes that are commonly found among construction workers, even more so among Latinos. An OSHA compliance assistant tells of her experience conducting a training on scaffolding safety in27 which the workers told her that the male instructor was a maricon, a sissy, because he told them they should never work on a scaffold that was unstable. They told her that the other workers would laugh at them if they appeared to be afraid. This machismo presents an obstacle that must be addressed in training. Many English-speaking supervisors and foremen receive this training at local community colleges, but few programs are available in Spanish. Providing more of these training programs in Spanish would meet an important need. Train-the-Trainer programs A number of studies and reports have indicated that Latino workers are particularly likely to learn about safety from their co-workers rather than from formal training programs. This suggests that there is great potential in training supervisors and other Latino workers to train other workers on health and safety issues. The advantages of these train-the-trainer programs are many: Workers are more likely to listen to and accept information from those they trust; training can be ongoing, rather than one-time; and training tends to be more grounded in the reality of the workplace. Although these programs require a larger additional investment, they can pay great dividends in preventing injuries and illnesses on the job in the long run. 25 Immigrant Workers at Risk: A Qualitative Study of Hazards faced by Latino Immigrant Construction Workers in the Triangle Area of North Carolina, North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Project. (Cambridge, England; Cambridge University Press, 1997). 26 Marilyn Velez, former OSHA compliance officer, currently a compliance assistant with OSHA’s Atlanta office, personal communication. 27 Ibid from footnote 27.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: