New Alliance to Emphasize Training for Non-English Speakers
Improving the safety of workers and motorists alike in roadway construction zones—with emphasis on non-English-speaking workers—is a key objective of a new alliance among the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), its construction industry allies, organized labor, and the federal government. The alliance was announced earlier this year in Washington, DC.
Through the alliance, OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Roadway Work Zone Safety and Health Partners will develop hazard awareness training and education programs aimed at training workers, educating the roadway construction industry, and reaching out to non-English-speaking construction workers about work-zone safety. The partners to the agreement are ARTBA, the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA), the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).
“Nearly one-third of the workers in the roadway construction industry are Hispanic, so we’re going to see a continuing emphasis on safety education and training for them,” says Brad Sant, ARTBA vice president of safety and education. “Four of the partners—ARTBA, NAPA, LIUNA, and the Operating Engineers—have been working for seven years on work-zone safety, and now we’re welcoming AGC to our partnership. The alliance gives us a more structured forum to collaborate on work-zone safety concerns.”
|Sitting (front row, left to right): C. Michael Walton, 2006-07 chairman, American Road and Transportation Builders Association; Edwin Foulke, assistant secretary, OSHA; Gary Fore, vice president, environment and safety, National Asphalt Pavement Association. Standing (back row, left to right): Emmett Russell, director of safety, International Union of Operating Engineers; Dave Lukens, chief operating officer, Associated General Contractors of America; Joseph Fowler, executive director, Laborers Health and Safety Fund of North America; and John Howard, director, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.|
OSHA says the alliance will focus on flagger safety, safer deployment of traffic-control devices, positive protection, night work, work-zone speeding, and runovers-backovers. A primary goal will be to develop safety materials that communicate to Spanish-speaking and other high-risk or vulnerable “hard to reach” workers.
Sant says ARTBA and its partners have developed safety-training materials for roadway construction workers in English, Spanish, and now in Portuguese to meet language demands, particularly in the Northeast.
A primary resource developed by the partners is a presentation, similar to a PowerPoint, called Roadway Safety, which is offered in Spanish, English, and Portuguese. Information is presented in written form supported by detailed illustrations and interactive demonstrations. Verbal narration is an option for the foreign-language slides. “It covers 14 of the highest hazards in roadway work-zone safety, including a module on flagger safety,” says Sant.
What’s more, ARTBA, working with the National Safety Council, has developed a 10-hour OSHA course—offered in English and Spanish—especially for roadway construction.
ARTBA also sells a manual on Spanish-English construction communication and a Spanish-English dictionary for construction. For more information about resources from ARTBA, go to www.artba.org.
Bilingual Training and Safety
Construction principals on a $2.7 billion expansion at Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport faced a problem. The construction industry in northern Texas has a large number of Spanish-speaking workers who in recent years had experienced a high number of fatalities and injuries on construction projects, says Terence P. Cassidy, assistant vice president for DFW International Airport.
The airport’s board of directors and all construction officials wanted to ensure the safety of construction workers and airport employees. Yet insurance actuaries provided disturbing predictions regarding the number of deaths and injuries that could be expected on such a large expansion project.
In cooperation with the two largest prime contractors on the project, Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and Austin Commercial LP, a mandatory 40-hour safety training program was developed and implemented. Classes were presented in English and Spanish; individual students could choose which language class they would attend. Classes conducted in Spanish devoted half a day to teaching students how to say basic construction tool names and terms in English.
In the English-language classes, English-speaking students were taught how to communicate basic construction tool names and terminology in Spanish.
The instruction was a mix of classroom and hands-on lab work. Students also received print materials to take on the job, including pocket cards with translations of key construction terms. The safety training program graduated 14,272 students by the time the project was completed. Some 8,100 students completed the classes presented in English, and 6,172 workers completed the classes in Spanish.
The results were dramatically positive. Both recordable and lost-time rates were significantly below state and national averages.
With more than 24 million man-hours worked, the program had posted a lost-time rate of 0.42 per 200,000 man-hours, compared to a national average of 3.60 per 200,000 man-hours and a state average of 2.4 per 200,000 man-hours.
The program had a recordable incident rate of 3.68 per 200,000 man-hours, compared to a national average of 6.80 per 200,000 man-hours and a state average of 4.3 per 200,000 man-hours. In addition, after nearly five years of work was completed, no fatalities had occurred.
The project included a new 2-million-square-foot international terminal building and the world’s largest airport train system. Construction of the train system took place at night and involved building the equivalent of a 5-mile-long bridge at a height of 50 to 80 feet above the ground.
These results were not due solely to training, says Cassidy. Many dedicated safety professionals and countless toolbox meetings also had a significant role in reinforcing the training. Cassidy says airport officials hope this training will have a long-term impact on safety and insurance modifiers in the local construction market for years to come.
On a Smaller Scale ...
Put this one in the “Do What You’ve Gotta Do” category. Raul Cantu, a Hispanic safety manager for a large Midwestern general contractor, recalls that as a safety official in a former job he faced the task of communicating construction safety concepts to some illiterate workers. They were Hispanic, and he speaks Spanish, but he needed some visual aids.
“So one of the guys in the office had his daughter draw up some pictures,” says Cantu. “She was about 14 or 15 years old, and she drew cartoon-like figures showing hard hats, boots, gloves, a fire extinguisher, glasses, and proper lifting techniques. She even drew pictures showing no drugs, no beer. It worked. We got the message across.”
Author's Bio: Daniel C. Brown writes on safety and technology in the construction industry.