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Your Environment. Your Health.

University of Massachusetts Lowell

Collaboration for Better Work Environment for Brazilians (COBWEB) in Massachusetts

NIEHS Grant: R25ES012588-04

C. Eduardo Siqueira, M.D., Sc.D.
carlos_siqueira@uml.edu

Project Description:

Between 2003 and 2007, Project COBWEB worked with the Brazilian immigrant community in Massachusetts. This research project aimed to gather data on Brazilian immigrant workers, and to better assess and meet their occupational safety and health needs.


As a result of this collaboration, the following measures were implemented to improve the work environment for Brazilian immigrant workers and to promote workplace health and safety conditions:

 

  • The Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Occupational Healthy Surveillance Program (OHSP), the BIC, and Project COBWEB worked together to improve the data collected about work-related fatalities; this was an effort to better identify the antecedents and causes of fatal injury, and to identify factors that may be amenable to intervention.
  • OHSP, in collaboration with BIC and COBWEB, produced bilingual Portuguese / English Safety Alerts describing and discussing cases of work-related deaths among Brazilians. These materials were used to educate the Brazilian community about workplace hazards and prevention strategies.
  • Outreach services were provided to hundreds of workers, including delivery of information and training on workplace hazards, followed by discussion about development of viable solutions to health problems generated by exposures to hazards.
  • Local and regional ethnic newspapers carried dozens of articles and columns in Portuguese written by BIC and UML staff about workplace injuries and fatalities, health hazards, immigration, and health care issues. Some of the most important newspapers in Brazil carried reports about Brazilian immigration to the US and workplace health and safety hazards faced by Brazilian immigrant workers.
  • In Oct 2003, project staff began a weekly UML radio talk show called Radiola Brasil that has discussed the activities of the project, the causes of work-related fatalities and injuries of Brazilian immigrant workers and how to prevent them, immigration and worker compensation laws, and health concerns of Brazilian immigrants.
  • COBWEB conducted several focus groups where workers gathered in a confidential setting to discuss the needs of the Brazilian community.
  • As a result of Project COBWEB, the BIC developed a partnership with the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) to educate and screen Brazilian construction workers, especially painters, for lead poisoning.
  • COBWEB collaborated with OSHA to create a Portuguese version of OSHA's 10-hour safety and health training for construction workers.
  • COBWEB collaborated with David Gute's research team from Tufts University to help form the Vida Verde Women's Co-Op   . This co-op is composed of Brazilian immigrant housecleaners who make their own "green" cleaning products, provide skill-building classes, and develop program materials in support of their mission of empowering housecleaners and reducing health problems associated with cleaning houses.

This collaboration worked to understand the occupational hazards facing Brazilian immigrant workers; to develop culturally, linguistically and literacy appropriate curricula for training Brazilian immigrant workers in the housecleaning and construction trades; and to minimize or eliminate occupational health and safety risks to these workers.


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