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Alabama AGC Gears Safety Classes to Hispanic Workers

Wed June 21, 2006 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

In an effort to make job sites safer for the growing Hispanic workforce, the Alabama Associated General Contractors (AGC) has set up a $10,000 scholarship program that will pay for 100 Hispanic commercial construction employees to take the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) 10 hour safety course in Spanish.

The “OSHA 10-Hour” is the commercial construction standard for safety. The first class began May 8.

“The Hispanic workforce is growing and becoming ever more important to the commercial construction industry,” said Alabama AGC President Henry T. Hagood Jr. “Unfortunately, however, a disproportionate percentage of on-the-job injuries occur among Hispanics. Many of those injuries are attributable to the language barrier, so we want to provide this important safety training in Spanish.”

The Alabama AGC is partnering with OSHA in the Birmingham area to contact churches and other organizations to identify Hispanics who may be interested in the safety training.

“Roberto Sanchez [Birmingham area OSHA director] and AGC representatives are meeting with church leaders to try to identify some Hispanics who are regular day laborers in the commercial construction industry, so we can offer safety training to this often overlooked group,” Hagood said. “Roberto and I have met with the leaders at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Hoover and will offer the class to that congregation in late June.”

Hagood said the OSHA 10-Hour in Spanish is only part of a planned outreach to the Hispanic community. Brochures used to help recruit students to high school construction education programs are being produced in Spanish and plans are under way to include Spanish safety articles in the Action News.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that from 1997 to 2002, total fatalities in the construction industry rose by slightly more than 1 percent, while the number of Hispanic fatalities increased by approximately 50 percent. Mexicans make up more than two-thirds of the Hispanic population in the United States and Mexican-born workers are 80 percent more likely to die in job-related accidents than native-born workers. Of construction fatalities in 2001, more than a third involved Hispanic workers.

“Hispanics are expected to account for 47 percent of construction jobs by 2010,” Hagood said. “We have come to depend on the skilled Hispanic workforce and that is not going to change. OSHA has pointed out that the increasing rate of employment and the exceptionally high rate of work-related injuries does not bode well for the future, so we must recognize the particular safety needs of this group of workers.

“OSHA has asked that companies take steps to better educate Spanish-speaking workers in safety. We are urging commercial contracting firms to do just that and we hope that our scholarship program will allow some companies to take that first important step.”

The Alabama AGC is also offering English as a Second Language classes as well as construction Spanish for supervisors and safety professionals. All classes are offered through the Construction Education Foundation of Alabama (CEFA), started in 2001 by the AGC in cooperation with other commercial construction industry associations.

For more information, call CEFA at 205/856-6002.

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