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September 11, 2013
OSHA partners with Mexican Consulate to protect construction workers

On September 6, OSHA and the Consulate General of Mexico in New Orleans signed an agreement aimed at protecting Mexican construction workers in Louisiana. Spanish-language training materials and outreach are the major focus of the alliance.

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Particular hazards addressed through these materials will include fall hazards, electrocution, heat illness, chemical exposure, and struck-by or caught-in and caught-between dangers. In addition to information on specific OSHA standards, outreach materials will also communicate workers’ rights to a safe and healthy workplace.

Similar agreements have been formed recently in several other states, including Idaho, Texas, Washington, Nevada, and Michigan. While the focus of these alliances varies, all are aimed at improving understanding among Spanish-speaking workers of job hazards, the importance of following workplace safety standards, and an employer’s duty to protect its workers from known hazards. Only the Louisiana alliance, however, specifically targets construction workers.

Language barriers in the workplace can create unsafe working conditions. If employees do not understand the safety training they receive, they may put themselves and others at risk by failing to follow safe working practices. Although OSHA requires that training be provided to all employees in a language they understand, this remains an ongoing challenge for many employers.

Hispanic and Latino workers have historically experienced higher rates of work-related fatal injuries than their English-speaking counterparts. While some of this disparity is likely due to the fact that Latino workers are more likely to work in high-risk industries such as construction, language barriers undoubtedly contribute to the problem. OSHA hopes that its targeted efforts to reach Spanish-speaking workers, including its alliances, help to resolve this issue and offers numerous Spanish-language resources to help employers fulfill their safety obligations to their non-English-speaking workers.

Dorinda Folse, OSHA’s area director in Baton Rouge, said of the alliance, “We are delighted that by joining together we will help save lives, prevent injuries, and raise awareness within the Spanish-speaking community in Louisiana.”

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