The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is learning how international collaboration and mobile technology can make for a fresh approach to educating employers and vulnerable workers about workplace safety.
Last year, OSHA Director of Construction Jim Maddux delivered a presentation on OSHA’s new campaign to prevent fatal falls at the annual conference of the American Society of Safety Engineers. When he finished, one of the conference leaders rushed over, eager to introduce Maddux to representatives from another agency with a similar mission of stopping falls in construction: Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower.
Falls are the No. 1 killer in construction in the United States and are a problem in the construction industry worldwide. The Singapore group showed Maddux a number of outreach publications they used to educate workers, employers, supervisors and foremen about how to work safely from heights, including a short English- and Chinese-language pamphlet on ladder safety. Impressed with the bilingual approach, clear illustrations and plain language, Maddux asked the officials if OSHA might adapt and republish the booklet for use in the United States. They graciously agreed.
This July, OSHA published “Falling Off Ladders Can Kill: Use Them Safely,” as an English-Spanish bilingual booklet based on the Singapore model. While creating it, the agency set to work on making it as accessible to as many people as possible.
Recent research by the Pew Research Center has found that Americans are increasingly using mobile devices as their primary means of finding information, with increased use of smartphones, tablets and e-readers across all demographics. Young people, Latinos and other vulnerable workers are significantly more likely than other groups to go online for information, including for health and safety resources.
That’s how the ladder booklet became OSHA’s first e-publication. Because it is available in mobile-friendly formats, work crews can access safety and health information in real time both on and off the job site.
Mark Gracyk, one of OSHA’s summer interns working in the Office of Communications, was excited to learn of the agency’s efforts to incorporate digital technologies while also including the Latino community. A bilingual student whose internship began shortly after OSHA’s publication of the mobile-friendly booklet, Gracyk has become one of its most vocal promoters.
“Three years ago during my first college classes, tablets were nearly invisible in the classroom. Today, students are using their tablets as textbooks, and other electronic devices are taking the place of more traditional learning tools. The workplace is no different,” said Gracyk.
The bilingual ladder book is part of the agency’s continuing efforts to ensure workers receive training and information in a language and vocabulary they can understand. OSHA seeks to get safety information directly to those who need it most – especially those who have limited English proficiency, and who often perform the most dangerous jobs in high-risk industries, suffering the most work-related injuries and deaths.
Whether you rely on a smartphone, a desktop computer or printed documents to get information, OSHA can help. Fall prevention materials, including fact sheets, posters, stickers, wallet cards and videos are available in English, Spanish and additional languages at www.osha.gov/stopfalls. For other resources on workplace safety and health, visit www.osha.gov.