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Safety training falls short for immigrant workers at small construction companies: study

Hispanic male worker
Photo: kali9/iStockphoto

Washington — Immigrant construction workers employed by small companies do not receive the same amount of safety and health training as their counterparts at larger companies, according to a recent study from NIOSH and the American Society of Safety Engineers.

Researchers analyzed survey responses from 268 construction business representatives. They found that non-native workers in companies with fewer than 50 employees received less training than those in companies with 50 or more employees – both when joining the organization and at ongoing, monthly intervals. Training encompassed multiple categories, including pre-job instruction, federal and state requirements, and OSHA 10-hour training for construction. The researchers also found that immigrant workers in small companies were less likely to fulfill each type of safety training.

Other findings:

  • Only 5.9 percent of immigrant workers at small companies received 11 or more hours of initial safety training – 38.2 percent received three to 10 hours and 55.9 percent received two hours or less. For larger companies, those figures were 20 percent, 48.5 percent and 31.5 percent, respectively.
  • 61.8 percent of immigrant workers at small companies received two or less hours of monthly training, compared with 42.9 percent at larger companies.
  • Supervisors spoke the same language as immigrant workers at 37.5 percent of small companies, compared with 68.9 percent of larger companies.

Overcoming language barriers improves safety, the researchers said. They recommend increasing awareness and training “to provide employers with the appropriate resources to reduce these risks.” Possible focus areas include effective communication through conversation and dissemination of occupational safety and health training materials.

The study was published in the March issue of the journal Safety Science.

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