Environmental Factor, May 2010, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
NIEHS at Latino Worker Summit
By Deborah Weinstock
NIEHS, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) brought together nearly 1,000 participants for the National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety. The meeting took place in Houston, Texas April 14 and 15.
Attending the conference were Latino workers, community- and faith-based groups, employers, unions, consulates, the medical community, health and safety professionals, and government representatives.
The summit's goal was reducing injuries and illnesses among Latino workers by enhancing knowledge of their workplace rights and improving their ability to exercise those rights. "This summit gave NIEHS the opportunity to showcase our safety and health training for Latino workers, as well as to build new partnerships with numerous community organizations dedicated to eliminating health disparities," said Chip Hughes, chief of the NIEHS Worker Education and Training Program.
The summit's workshops and exhibits highlighted employers and companies with effective education programs to reach Latino workers; successful community-based and public-private partnerships to educate and empower workers about workplace hazards; and the many free educational resources that NIEHS, OSHA, NIOSH, and nonprofit organizations make available to help small business owners prevent worker illness, injury, and death on the job. Plenary sessions and selected workshops featured simultaneous translation for the audience.
An NIEHS-sponsored poster session highlighted effective collaborations and partnerships; safety and health training strategies to reach Latino workers; and on-the-job strategies for improving health and safety for Latino workers. More than 40 posters were on display from community groups, academics, and government agency representatives.
The Latino labor force represents 14.8 percent of the total civilian labor force in the United States. Latino workers suffer injuries and die on the job at a higher rate than the workforce as a whole. According to worker safety advocates, many of these workers are employed in dangerous and hazardous professions, and they often do not know their rights under the law and are not trained in addressing workplace hazards.
(Deborah Weinstock is the director of the NIEHS National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety and Health Training operated by contractor MDB, Inc.)