Over the last four years as an interpreter specializing in workers’ compensation, I have seen my share of unnecessary, heart-wrenching work injuries. Let’s face it, accidents will always occur. However, it seems like a disproportionate amount of Hispanic workers get injured every year.
One of the reasons for this is the common belief that production rules. Often times it is believed that the only reason the employer encourages safety is to comply with government regulations. It is understood without words though that cutting corners is okay in order to get the work done quickly. Most Hispanic workers are aware of their reputation for working harder, better and faster. For this reason they are hired, and if they are to keep the job, they must maintain that reputation. Most workers believe that they can get away with cutting corners because accidents happen to other people.
Another reason for many work injuries among Hispanic workers has to do with communication. Many companies carry out a safety program, however oftentimes it is in English. Some Hispanic workers might have a very limited knowledge of English or none at all. They might not fully understand the safety training given to them in English.
Fear is also a factor working in all of this. Undocumented workers don’t want to rock the boat and risk losing their job, being reported, and deportation. Especially in these economic times, even legal workers fear losing employment or retaliation for questioning safety. Undocumented workers are often abused and exploited. They often work for low wages without being paid for overtime and are given the most dangerous jobs with the least amount of training.
Years ago I worked on scaffolds. After rigging school, I was responsible for safety on the crew. Later as a painting contractor, I continued to be responsible for the safety of my employees. In recent years working as an interpreter, my unique knowledge of the construction and safety industry has enabled me to interpret for OSHA safety trainers. Therefore it seemed like a logical next step to use that unique experience to teach safety in Spanish directly. I am now an authorized OSHA trainer in industry with more to come.
My goal is to teach safety to the Hispanic community in the language with which it is most comfortable. I want to reach their hearts and imagination so that they feel the urgency for safety. I want to help alleviate fear so that they can take the necessary steps to safeguard themselves. I want to see able-bodied men stay able-bodied so that they can care for their families, play with their children, and enjoy life.
This is good for employers as well. For one, worker safety is the right thing to do. It will also reduce the cost of lost production and compensation claims.
I am very happy to announce that Alfonso Interpreting is now a certified minority business with Carolinas Minority Supplier Development Council. The South Carolina Hispanic Chamber of Commerce graciously showed me the way and directed me to the (MSDC). Hopefully that will help open doors in creating partnerships that will insure the safety of many Hispanic workers.