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Safety Training for Spanish-Speaking Workers in the Logging Industry in the Southeastern United States
O'Neal, Brandon Scott
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Safety in logging operations in the Southeastern United States has long been an issue of concern. Recently, a growing number of Spanish-speaking workers have become employed in logging operations in the Southeastern U.S. There is a growing concern that injury and fatality rates could increase due to inexperience, possible lack of proper safety training, and language barrier problems attributed to the new Spanish-speaking workers. The study area is the Southeastern U.S., comprising twelve states ranging from Texas to Virginia. The goal of this study is to determine the current percentage of Spanish-speaking workers in the study area, assess the previous and present safety training received by Spanish-speaking workers, and provide recommendations addressing the short and long-term logging safety training needs of Spanish-speaking workers. Data was collected through a combination of field surveys and questionnaires. The surveys collected data from 1890 logging operations in the study area, and was used to determine the population of Spanish-speaking workers in the logging industry. The questionnaires were completed during the summer of 2005 by 41 selected sample loggers who employ Spanish-speaking workers, in which they addressed the previous and present safety training received by Spanish-speaking workers, in addition to other information pertaining to safety. The percentage of Spanish-speaking workers in the logging industry in the Southeastern U.S. was 3.37%. Ten percent of operations employed one or more Spanish-speaking workers. Relevant literature as well as data collected through this study suggests that Spanish-speaking worker populations will continue to increase. The survey showed Spanish-speaking workers in the logging industry have tended to immigrate to specific regions, Arkansas and North Carolina. Loggers tend to employ one or two Spanish-speaking workers with several non-Spanish-speaking workers rather than forming entire crews of Spanish-speaking workers. Average employment tenure for Spanish-speaking workers was six years. The majority of loggers (90%) who employed Spanish-speaking workers had at least one worker who could translate safety training/instructions to other Spanish-speaking employees. Loggers ranked this method as the most effective way for presenting safety training to Spanish-speaking workers. Based on the survey data, Spanish-speaking workers are not likely to substantially impact logging industry injury statistics in the Southeastern U.S. in the near future, but could in the long term. Recommendations were developed from a combination of survey and questionnaire results and literature reviews. It is recommended that: (1) The use of multiple safety training methods will maximize the Spanish-speaking workers learning ability, (2) The combination of hands-on/demonstration training and the use of a bi-lingual employee/translator seem to be the optimal combination of safety training methods for Spanish-speaking workers, (3) Determine the education/literacy levels of Spanish-speaking employees. It is not appropriate to provide a Spanish-speaking worker with written safety material if they cannot read, (4) Safety training methods used for Spanish-speaking workers may require more â customizationâ than that of non-Spanish-speaking workers. This is, in part, due to language barriers, questionable literacy, and the fact that in other industries Spanish-speaking workers seem to be more accident prone, (5) It is advisable not to assign inadequately trained and experienced Spanish-speaking workers to tasks such as manual felling, trimming, or bucking with a chainsaw, as this is one of the most hazardous logging tasks. Assigning an experienced employee for a period of at least one week who can oversee the Spanish-speaking worker and correct any unsafe practices would be advisable when assigning a new Spanish-speaking worker to this task, (6) Use universally accepted hand signals around the landing area rather than verbal communication to prevent any miscommunication between Spanish-speaking and non-Spanish-speaking workers, (7) Monitor the Spanish-speaking worker population in the logging workforce closely. Depending on political and economic factors, this population could grow quickly and begin to impact safety/injury rates and (8) Crews comprised entirely of Spanish-speaking workers would likely communicate better. While the limited availability of Spanish-speaking workers in some areas may currently restrict this idea, it may be feasible in the future as more Spanish-speaking workers enter the logging workforce. At this time it may be beneficial for employers to learn Spanish or for Spanish-speaking workers to learn English.
- Masters Theses