ASSE Expands Efforts to Reach Out to Latino/Hispanic Workforce

Hispanics are now 16% of the American workforce. Some barriers that these workers face at the workplace include limited English language skills, different work culture and cultural beliefs, and immigration status. These factors put them at greater risk of injury and death than other workers. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fatal injury rate for Hispanic workers is higher than the national average for all U.S. workers. Preliminary data shows that 797 Hispanic or Latino workers were killed from work-related injuries in 2013—more than 15 deaths a week or two Latino workers killed every single day of the year, all year long (the highest since 2008).

Bilingual Bureau

ASSE Members of the Bilingual Spokespeople Bureau attend media training at ASSE Headquarters. Front row (L to R): Zef Banda, Arizona; Diana Cortez, New York; Hector Escárcega, California; Jerry Rivera, D.C.; Angelica Nava, California; Back row (L to R): Ernie García, New York; Jose Velasquez, Texas; Mario Varela, Illinois

ASSE recognizes the importance to change these trends by reaching out to this vulnerable population to educate and empower workers. As part of this effort, ASSE has launched the first Bilingual Spokespeople Bureau that is comprised by 11 ASSE members who are bilingual, bicultural and committed to reach out to the Hispanic market to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries of Latino workers. These members will speak about the importance of workplace safety in Hispanic media outlets and will focus their attention in campaigns such as fall prevention and heat-related illnesses prevention, among others. Past Secretary of ASSE’s Safety Professionals and the Latino Workforce Common Interest Group (SPALW) Ernie Garcia, CSP, CPEA, says, “As a member of SPALW, I am extremely proud to be one of the few Spanish-speaking safety professionals selected to be a bilingual spokesperson on behalf of ASSE. Not only because it gives me an opportunity to comment on behalf of the Hispanic workforce and ASSE when needed but because of the high level of trust the Society has granted me as one of its official spokespersons.”

ASSE Bilingual Spokeperson Jose Velasquez, CSP, CMIOSH, says the initiative will help raise awareness. “We will become the voice that can help overcome the language barrier between employers and the Latino workforce,” Valasquez says. “Now more than ever we need to reach out to the Latino community to raise awareness.”

ASSE Bilingual Spokesperson Mario Varela says he’s honored to be part of the group, and that as OSH professionals, “it is incumbent upon us to give back to our profession, the industry and the community at large by helping wherever we can in educating [Hispanic] workers and their employers about OSH hazards, risks, protection and rights, just as we do with any other worker from any walk of life.”

“The media communication training was very value added, says Bilingual Spokesperson Angelica Nava. “The SPALW group has great energy and passion to share and the message was very clear. We need to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities in the Latino workforce. I am excited about the tools we were given to effectively communicate this message.”

Since 2004, ASSE’s SPALW has been providing safety professionals an arena to develop strategies around issues related to the Latino workforce. “Throughout the years they have brought attention to the need to proactively address the high incidence of deaths, injuries and illnesses among Hispanic workers,” says ASSE President Patricia M. Ennis, CSP, ARM. “This new step will give the Society the opportunity to have a profound impact on the future of this growing workforce.” As part of the efforts to reach out to the Hispanic workforce, ASSE is developing new and strengthening existing partnerships with other associations, organizations, and individuals that share the same vision to educate, create awareness, and take proactive steps to address this issue.