September 14, 2010 Elizabeth Grossman 4Comment

by Elizabeth Grossman

On September 9th, OSHA announced the award of its 2010 Susan Harwood Capacity Building Grants. The grants will support training in industries that range from meatpacking and agricultural work to beauty salons, supermarkets, and construction – in both remote rural and urban environments. Almost all programs are designed to reach workers in both English and Spanish – among other languages – as well as workers in what OSHA describes as “high risk” industries.

“The programs funded by these grants will have a long-lasting, positive impact on workers and employers alike,”

said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels in a press statement. This year $8 million will go to 45 organizations to support their work in safety and health training and education for workers and employers.

Recipients include community groups, labor unions, colleges, and employer associations. The 2010 grants differ from previous years in that a third go to “pilot” programs, most of which are efforts of community organizations. Nearly all these programs target workers whose first language may be other than English.

Overall, this year’s grant recipients include a greater number of community organizations than previous years’. While there are a number of repeat recipients – among them university-based and labor or trade group programs – there are a notable number of first-time grantees, including Interfaith Worker Justice, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, LIUNA Training & Education Fund (to develop a “green certification program for construction craft laborers that focuses on deconstruction/demolition”), and the National Council for Safety and Health, which receives this year’s largest grant.

Named in honor of the late Susan Harwood, PhD, a former director of the Office of Risk Assessment in OSHA’s health standards directorate, the grants are designed to support programs that prevent work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths by training both workers and employers to identify – and correct – workplace safety hazards. The grants target industries with workers particularly vulnerable to workplace accidents: those with high injury and fatality rates, whose employees have historically low literacy rates and limited English proficiency, or who are young or otherwise inexperienced, a well as small businesses. The grants are also designed to help educate workers in what OSHA calls “high-risk industries” about job hazards and their occupational health and safety rights. Another goal is to provide employers with what OSHA calls “crucial information about unsafe working conditions,” and how to improve such conditions.

This year’s grants provide $6.7 million to 30 organizations to support and expand ongoing occupational health and safety training and related educational programs, and $1.3 million in smaller grants ($85,000 – $90,000 each) to 15 additional organizations for new or pilot programs in occupational health and safety training. “These grants will help provide training and education aimed at identifying hazards, understanding rights and responsibilities, protecting health and saving lives,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

Organizations receiving pilot program grants include:

•Alliance of Forest Workers and Harvesters of Albany, California, to improve worker health and safety, enhance enforcement of labor laws, and promote sustainable forest harvest practices within the mushroom gathering and other forest industries in the Pacific Northwest;
•Farmworker Legal Services of New York, to develop safety and health programs for low literacy and seasonal workers in western New York;
•Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest. to conduct an assessment identifying workplace safety and health hazards in Nebraska’s meatpacking industry with the aim of assisting the industry’s immigrant and low-wage workers in rural locations;
•Northwest Wisconsin Concentrated Employment Program. to work with local manufacturers on training in ergonomics, equipment operations, and handling of hazardous chemicals in industries that include wood and paper products, food processing, and heavy equipment; and
•Workers Defense Project in Austin, Texas to develop training modules tailored to local Latino construction workers.

“OSHA also has significantly reached out to non-English speaking, and historically hard to reach, vulnerable workers by awarding grants to organizations committed to serving those groups,” said Michaels of these awards.

The larger or “developmental” grants to existing programs generally range from $180,000 to $225,000 per organization. The exception is one $780,000 grant to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, whose grant will go to support the work of seventeen different local affiliate organizations.

Recipients of developmental grants include:

•Construction Safety Council in Hillside, Illinois, to partner with the Hispanic Council to create a “Safety Training Resource Center” for Hispanic and immigrant workers;
•California Rural Legal Assistance, to train – in English and Spanish – migrant farm workers, construction workers, landscape workers, and other low-wage outdoor workers in California regarding heat illness and heat stress prevention;
•National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a coalition of seven organizations that works in over a dozen states all across the country, to provide occupational safety and health training to hard-to-reach immigrant day laborers, also in English and Spanish;
•Operating Engineers Local 150 Apprenticeship Fund, to provide training on fall protection, confined space, and the new OSHA standard on cranes and derricks; and
•United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, to provide training to employers and high-risk union workers in the meatpacking, poultry, and food processing industries on topics including worker rights education and safety training on ergonomic and amputation and other workplace hazards.

Other industries targeted by grant recipients’ programs include nail salon and restaurant workers, hotel car wash, waste handling and recycling, healthcare workers (particularly those who handle blood), roofers and shipyard workers, supermarket and warehouse workers, agricultural workers who handle pesticides, and communications and wind-power tower workers. For those of us with desk jobs, these grants come as a reminder of how much work goes on in all of our communities where workplace safety cannot be taken for granted.

4 thoughts on “Support for health and safety training for vulnerable and hard-to-reach workers: OSHA awards 2010 Susan Harwood Grants

  1. As a taxpayer I am concerned that under these Susan Harwood Grant’s the Assistant Secretary, Dr. David Michaels, has complete authority and discretion when selecting grantees. No shocker here that it seems all of the grantees were either Union groups, community organizing groups, and university’s.

    What group was blatantly left out? Employer and trade association groups! This Administration continues their adversarial relationship towards employers and employer representatives.

    If nail salon, restaurant workers, and car wash workers are working in such “high hazard industries” why aren’t fatalities noted in the weekly fatality reports published by OSHA, or why aren’t there any National Emphasis Programs targeting these industries?

    I urge you to take a look at the quality of training programs developed by employers and employer representatives who have safety and health expertise versus the union groups, community organizers, or university’s that lack the qualifications and expertise in subject matters they are developing these training materials for. *If you can even find finished products by these groups on OSHA’s website, many seem to have not even been published or provided to the public.

    Dr. Michaels, please do not continue to leave out employers. There are many employers who do not fall into the “repeatedly recalcitrant” category who are trying to do the right thing to keep workers safe and health on the jobsite.

    In these tough economic times please remember employers when choosing grantees for Susan Harwood Training Grants.

  2. Good point concerned. Awarding grant money is political. OSHA will give the money to the Unions and Labor Activists as payback for votes. Considering that only 15% of the labor force belongs to a Union it is clear that the distribution of grant funds is biased. How about the 85% that does not belong to a Union.
    It is good to see that they are trying to get organziations to develop and publish materials in Spanish. Maybe they can use some of it to translate the new Introduction to OSHA and Workers rights training module for 10 and 30 hour training. There is a power point floating around but the hand out is in English only. Check for your self, it is not found on the OTI web page

  3. OK, here’s my response to those who have accused OSHA of playing politics.

    First, it doesn’t look like unions were more represented this year than in past years. If anything, small universities and for-profit consultants were the real ‘losers’. According to OSHA, 14 grant proposals were submitted by employers; 5 were funded and a 33% funding rate hardly suggests anti-employer politics. Or does it?

    Second, the large gain was for non-union and largely immigrant – though not exclusively – ‘under-served workers’ in more precarious or ‘informal’ sectors of the following industries: construction, health care and the service. These organizations work with workers who are unlikely to join a union any time soon, but still face serious job hazards.

    Workers in this category tend to work for small employers with few resources to invest in h&s training. Which isn’t to say that the trade associations they belong to do not. Unfortunately, these associations are more likely to ‘invest’ in influencing the next election or defeating an OSHA proposal than developing worker safety products.

    Finally, these grants have always been ‘political’, but anyone who believes that the ABC, AGC, LIUNA, UAW or any similar organization is going to be ‘bought’ with one of these small awards is fooling themselves.

    I believe the ‘politics’ more reflects the public policy concerns of the administration. After 2001 ergonomics was largely taboo and this year the focus is on the under-served immigrant worker population.

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