The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is working on locally-based programs aimed at educating immigrant workers on workplace safety. This week, OSHA established an agreement with the Heartland Workers Center (HWC) of Omaha, Nebraska, to carry out training programs, many of them geared specifically toward Spanish speakers. The HWC is a worker advocacy group that operates throughout the Midwest, serving many immigrant workers and their families. This alliance is just the latest forged by OSHA, which also has partnerships with non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
The training will not be limited to recent arrivals or people whose English skills are insufficient, but will also extend to workers who have been in the United States for several years. HWC and OSHA noted that many immigrants never receive proper accident prevention training when they begin work. Some then go on to start their own businesses, but have neither the knowledge nor the qualifications to train their employees. A primary focus of the training programs will be fall prevention, since many workers don't use fall arrest systems, such as harnesses, even though they are required by OSHA regulations.
Construction safety will be addressed more than any other area, as that is the sector where a majority of immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries work, as well as one of the most dangerous because of the abundance of risk factors on construction sites. America's building industry relies heavily on immigrant labor, and it is best practice that construction workers are aware of the dangers they are exposed to and the measures they can take to avoid them. OSHA's efforts will go a long way toward making building sites safer places to work.