Safer Hispanic workers

first_imgWorkers are young and productive”From class surveys, we’ve seen that some of these Hispanicworkers have technical school or college degrees,” Martinez said.”Most are young, single and in the prime of their productivity.They can easily work 14 hour days at strong, labor-intensivework.”Most say they’re in the United States to work so they can sendmoney back home to their families. Their goal is to return home.”Regardless of why they’re here, they’re here and working in avital industry, and they need to be trained,” he said.Fonseca, who began training Hispanic landscape and greenhouseworkers as a Cherokee County extension agent, said the trainingneeds are great.”The poultry industry in the state has the need, too,” he said.”The majority of their workers are now Hispanic.” By Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaA $105,000 Occupational Safety and Health Administration grantwill help University of Georgia faculty members accomplish whatthey’ve been trying to do on a shoestring budget: train thestate’s Hispanic landscape workers.OSHA’s Susan Harwood Training Grants focus on improving workers’on-the-job safety records. Plant pathologist Alfredo Martinezserves as the project director for UGA.The project is aimed at reducing equipment- and driving-relatedinjuries and the misuse of pesticides and unnecessary exposure tothem. 75 percent of the work force”Of the 65,000 workers in the state’s green industry, 75 percentare Hispanic,” Martinez said. “As three-fourths of the work force,Hispanics are the backbone of this industry.”The turf, ornamental and landscape companies that make upGeorgia’s green industry are among the fastest-growing in thestate.And the trainings don’t just help those companies and theirworkers. It’s important to everyone around them that theseworkers are trained to work safely, Martinez said.”Every day,” he said, “they’re mixing chemicals and using heavyequipment and tools with rather limited training.”Business owners are eager to have their Hispanic workers trained,he said. The lower insurance premiums and other benefits ofreducing accidents are easy for them to see.Martinez, horticulturist Marco Fonseca and other UGA colleagueshave trained Hispanic workers for years through programs in theUGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Bilingual training materials”We plan to develop more in-depth trainings that include manualsin both Spanish and English,” he said.The HSG specialists plan to train both the Hispanic workers andtheir managers. “We’ve developed a training for managers thatfocuses on understanding cultural differences,” Fonseca said.”These things affect production and safety.”Over the past two years, the group has reached more than 500Hispanic workers.”The workers have learned to trust us, and they’re no longerafraid to approach us,” Martinez said. “I get four to six calls aweek from Hispanics I have met who have questions and need moreinformation.”Of the Hispanic workers who have come to his trainings, Martinezsaid, 75 percent are Mexican. The rest are from Central or SouthAmerica. Hispanic Specialists GroupTwo years ago, they formed Georgia’s Hispanic SpecialistsGroup tounify their efforts.Jorge Atiles, an extension housing specialist with the UGACollege of Family and Consumer Sciences, helped with the grantprocess. Martinez, Fonseca and Atiles have both professional andpersonal reasons to see the program succeed.They work closely with the green industry in their UGA programs,and they’re all Hispanic. Martinez is from Mexico, FonsecaHonduras and Atiles the Dominican Republic.”The Hispanic work force in Georgia has grown 300 percent overthe past decade,” Fonseca said. “They’re a very important laborforce to agribusinesses in the state. And the UGA ExtensionService is in the position to deliver training to them across thestate where it is desperately needed.”In the past, the group trained Hispanic workers primarily onproper pesticide handling. With the grant, Martinez sees morepossibilities.last_img

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