The Hispanic population across United States of America grew from 22.4 million in 1990 to 30.3 million in 2000, a gain of 35.2 percent, representing 12% of the entire population in the U.S. (US Census Bureau, 2001). The Hispanic population in the U.S. is quickly becoming the largest ethnic/racial group in the country, coming closer to African Americans at 12.2 %. It is estimated by the US Census Bureau that, by the year 2010, the Hispanic population will represent 22 percent of the entire population. In the last couple of decades there has been an increasing influx of Hispanic immigrants into the United States (Hurst, 1998) joining the work force.
The Department of Labor estimates that there are more than 14.5 million Hispanic workers in the country. Unfortunately, these workers account for the highest percentage of workplace injuries and fatalities compared to other groups in the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that while fatal work injuries to Hispanic workers increased each year from 1995 to 2001, a decrease was seen in 2002 and 2003, from a high of 895 fatalities in 2001, to 791 in 2003, down 12 %. In 2003, foreign-born Hispanic workers accounted for 519 fatalities or 69 percent. Due to this disproportionate number of workplace fatalities among Hispanic workers, several Federal and state agencies have addressed the importance of protecting the rights and promoting safety of Hispanic workers (Lathram, Layne, 2002). In April 2002, OSHA began collecting data in fatality investigations about the country of origin and language of the worker. It is important to consider that the existing fatality rate data does not correlate to the real magnitude of the problem since the illegal or undocumented Latino immigrants in the U.S. are not included (EOSH)
Based on my personal experience as a safety professional and as Latin American immigrant, I became aware of the great need to provide training and more importanly, outreach programs to Hispanic immigrant workers. I have realized that providing training classes and material in Spanish was not enough to promote sustainable and effective health and safety practices among Hispanic workers. I decided to identify cultural values of Hispanic workers that may influence their behaviors towards health and safety since factoring these values into the design and delivery of occupational safety and health training programs may increase its effectiveness. At the same time, trainers of Hispanic workers should become aware of immigrant population cultural values in comparison to American values, learn about their needs and feelings toward health and safety and serve as a link between the two cultures. Based on the information I have collected, some suggestions are provided along with a model of cross-cultural learning for safety training programs. Other considerations include an effort to improve the workers' health and safety.