Outgoing President, Session Highlight Hispanic Worker Injuries

The American Society of Safety Professionals' Hispanic Outreach Working Group was formed earlier this year both to improve safety and health for Hispanic workers and to bring more Hispanic safety professionals into the field.

SAN ANTONIO -- Safety 2018's opening general session on June 4 and a construction safety forum later that morning both focused in part on the safety and health of Hispanic workers. This is part of the focus of a new American Society of Safety Professionals initiative, the Hispanic Outreach Working Group, which was formed earlier this year both to improve safety and health for Hispanic workers and to bring more Hispanic safety professionals into the field.

Jim Smith, M.S., CSP, outgoing president of ASSP, cited what he called the "unacceptable" number of Hispanic worker deaths on the job, especially in construction, and said the working group was formed to work on the problem. He said the working group will be able to generate ideas and strategies to make a difference in this key area.

A construction safety forum here on June 4 also looked at that issue, among others. Panelist Jorge Otalora, CHST, division safety director in Washington, D.C., said he's on the working group and discussed the issues during the forum. Other panelists were Kevin Cannon, safety director for the Associated General Contractors in Washington, D.C. and Donald Hurley, CSP, corporate safety director for the projects group at Zachry Industrial Inc. in San Antonio. They also discussed the construction industry's current difficulty in finding enough skilled workers.

Cannon said AGC's surveys indicate about 70 percent of its member companies are having trouble finding enough workers. A Pittsburgh AGC chapter has used federal grants to develop games based on construction work themes, as a way of attracting younger workers, and other chapters are partnering with schools on construction courses, he said, explaining that a variety of ways can be used to recruit new workers into the trades.

Hurley, saying Zachry has about 25,000 employees, said the company develops its own craft workers. It's key to adequately assess new workers' skills initially, he explained.

ASSP first convened the Hispanic Worker Outreach Group in December 2017. The group initially consisted of 11 Hispanic members, both American-born and immigrants; President-Elect Rixio Medina facilitated the conversation, and the meeting was the society's first step in developing an effective Hispanic outreach effort.

It has four aims

  • Bring more Hispanics into the OSH profession
  • Assist the professional/leadership development of Hispanic OSH professionals
  • Attract more Hispanic OSH professionals to ASSP
  • Assist in improving safety and health for Hispanic/Latino workers

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