The statistics reveal the problem.
Hispanic workers suffer four out of every five injuries on the job, according to the Texas Workers Compensation Commission.
More than half of work-related fatalities in Texas occur among Spanish-speaking workers.
TEEX’s OSHA Training Institute Southwest Education Center is working to change these statistics. The center, which covers Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico, offered the nation’s first Spanish-based Trainer Course in OSHA Standards for the Construction Industry (OSHA 500) in Austin on April 30.
“As the statistics show, there is a need for this course,” said Dr. Ben Cranor of TEEX, who coordinates the OSHA course. “This population has not been very well-served. They get the work done, but they just need to know how to do their job safely.”
Twenty-three students attended the class from as far away as North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Monterrey, Mexico. Cranor, who doesn’t speak Spanish, recruited bilingual instructors in the construction industry who had previously completed the OSHA 500 course to lead the class. Many of these instructors donated their time to TEEX or were sponsored by their employers.
TEEX offered scholarships with a “community service” payback requirement to Spanish-speaking construction industry personnel with specific expertise in some of the 28 safety topics covered in the five-day course. The scholarship recipients were then required to give 30 “community service” hours of safety training to others.
Part of this effort is to provide a pool of bilingual construction safety instructors for OSHA, Cranor said. OSHA can then call on them to provide safety training to small companies in their area that otherwise could not afford OSHA training.
William Armstrong, safety director for the city of Fort Worth, reported that after two city employees attended the April class, they implemented radical changes in their department’s safety program, which reduced the recorded injury rate to zero.
Because of the success of the April class, the OSHA Center has scheduled five more Spanish-based OSHA courses on general industry safety, construction safety and machine guarding standards. The classes will be held in McAllen, San Antonio, Houston and Mesquite.
“TEEX has always been supportive of our OSHA outreach programs,” said OSHA Regional Administrator John Miles Jr., “and it doesn’t surprise me that our Region VI OSHA Education Center was the first to reach this under-served population.” He added that federal OSHA’s partnership with TEEX will be critical to the success of the OSHA Spanish language training initiative.
The OSHA Center has applied for a grant to recruit and train 60 additional bilingual construction safety trainers next year.