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[caption id="attachment_30308" align="alignleft" width="108" caption="Mike Lopez"][/caption]

As many North Bay companies in the construction, agricultural, manufacturing and other industries hire an increasing number of Latin American immigrant workers, it’s imperative that these companies’ business owners, HR and supervisors are clear in communication with these employees on job safety precautions, rules and procedures.

Having Latino employees – which is increasingly the case with many North Bay companies in these industries – presents additional challenges because of the language and cultural barriers and the government’s increasing pressure on companies to enforce Cal/OSHA compliance.

Latinos are hard workers but tend to get frequent injuries. They take more risks on the job because safety has often never been a consideration in the Latin American companies where they previously worked.  Many times they don’t understand the American company’s safety procedures and policies.

Other actions they may take because of the language and cultural differences could include not reporting incidents because they don’t want to rock the boat and lose their jobs.  They may also indicate an understanding of safety procedures when they really don’t because of the language barrier.

In fact, workplace fatalities have increased sharply for Latino and immigrant workers, according to the new 2010 AFL-CIO annual study: "Death on the Job:  “Inadequate Enforcement.” In 2008, fatal injuries among Latino workers increased by 13  percent higher than the fatal injury rate for all U.S. workers.

To reduce the number of Latino worker injuries, retain good employees, prevent your workers’ comp costs from skyrocketing and be prepared for increasing government compliance, additional effort and time must be exerted with your Latino work force.

You need to make sure that they receive and understand the company safety procedures and policies, usually in their own language; feel comfortable with the company culture; and understand the employee’s and employer’s rights and responsibilities in Cal/OSHA compliance.

A conference on March 10 in Santa Rosa will address these challenges and will review some techniques that have been shown to be effective for employers in overcoming the language and cultural barriers.

This sixth-annual conference, “Latinos in the Workplace” is designed to give employers and supervisors the tools to address diversification, safety, wellness, communication, OSHA compliance and supervisor leadership roles.

Major topics to be discussed include preparing Latino supervisors for their critical roles, understanding the health issues facing Latino workforce, detailed presentations describing worksite-held employee English learning development programs and how companies can stay abreast of compliance to protect themselves from Cal/OSHA fines and enforcement.

Speakers include: Efren Carrillo, Sonoma County supervisor, Lupe Sandoval, Bilingual Safety Solutions, Dr. Mary Maddux- Gonzalez, Sonoma County Public Health Division director, Bob Reynolds, Innovative Business Solutions, Kelly Bass, director of workforce development Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, Chris Lee, deputy chief, Cal/OSHA Enforcement

This workshop will be held from 7:30 a.m. to noon in Santa Rosa, on March 10 at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel. The cost per person is $45 for ECA, NCBE and 101MFG members and $50 for nonmembers.

Conference organizers are the Engineering Contractors Association and Vantreo Insurance Brokerage.

To sign up or for more information, call Mary Kennedy at ECA at 707-546-5500 or obtain a registration form from the events section of www.nceca.org.

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As vice president of Vantreo Insurance Brokerage, Mr. Lopez provides leading-edge risk reduction strategies for builders, developers, and manufacturers seeking innovative commercial insurance solutions. Mike can be reached at 707-546-2300, x237, mlopez@vantreo.com or www.vantreo.com.