Immigrant workers now have a place to go with questions or concerns about workplace safety, under a new alliance between the Iowa State Department of Labor, OSHA, and the Mexican Consulate. Regional Administrator Chuck Adkins with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says the alliance will mean teaching about safety in Spanish, in local communities.
The goal of the operation is to make available to Mexican natives and Spanish-speaking people in the state of Iowa some training, and information that will help protect them from hazards of the workplace. Adkins says it’s been difficult to reach people who don’t speak English or come to presentations the agency gives about safety and health.
"This alliance is opening a door for those types of communications to take place in a language that the people will understand," Adkins says. He says every job has its risks, but some have far more serious hazards than others, and often there are rules about keeping workers safe from those hazards. He says the goal is to protect people, to keep them from getting hurt by those hazards.
"Unfortunately, there are worksites that employees do not take the necessary steps to protect people," Adkins says, "and possibly even do not take the steps to communicate with those people, to let them know they should not do this, or they should do this in a certain way, in order to prevent injuries." The Mexican consulate in Omaha serves as a liaison to immigrant workers, and Adkins says the alliance has nothing to do with their legal status.
Adkins says the bottom line is, "The safety and health people are interested in safety in health." He says the agency’s interest is not in any worker’s legality or citizenship, as its bottom line is that they’re entitled to a safe workplace regardless of their status. He says workers should go home in the same condition they came to work every day — safe and sound. Workers who want a speaker to come to a gathering or workplace, or who have a question or a situation to report can contact the OSHA area office in Des Moines at (515) 284-3794.