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.