Michele Ochsner, PhD
Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey
New Brunswick, NJ
Email: [email protected]
Will “safety liaisons” (peer safety leaders) trained to identify common
hazards and share information and safe work practices with co-workers and supervisors be able to make a difference in health and safety on union and non-union residential construction sites? The Rutgers research team seeks to answer this question during its five-year project.
In Year One, the research team recruited seven members of Laborers Local 55 and nine Latino day laborers in construction for a series of one-day meetings to discuss project goals and health and safety issues in residential construction. These meetings culminated in a five-day train-the-trainer session. The English/Spanish curriculum included the residential construction health and safety curriculum developed by the Rutgers Occupational Training and Education Consortium/New Labor, plus new learning activities to build participants’ understanding of the role of a safety liaison, especially in conducting worksite audits. All meetings and trainings were conducted in English and Spanish to build teamwork and respect among African-American and other minority workers from Local 55 and the immigrant Latino day laborers. The bilingual challenge was resolved by having participants wear earphones for simultaneous translation of instructions and discussion. One powerful outcome: workers realized that they share the same motivations to work hard for their families, and they experience the same struggles and hazards on jobsites.
During Year One, the safety liaisons also helped researchers create a bilingual safety audit/checklist to record hazardous worksite conditions and changes made to correct problems identified. Data collection using this instrument is underway.
Research Team & Partners: Carmen Martino, Rutgers University; Betsy Marshall, PhD, the School of Public Health, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey; New Labor, a worker center in New Jersey; and LIUNA-NJ Local 55.
An Evaluation of the Efficacy of Safety Liaisons and Worker Training among Vulnerable Workers in Residential Construction.
This project will test the transfer of an innovative and successful program (safety liaisons) from a traditional union setting to the more fluid, multi-faceted residential construction environment. It will respond to a series of questions—most importantly—can safety liaisons effectively improve knowledge, work practices and safety climate at residential construction worksites? The project builds on the partnership between Rutgers OTEC and New Labor, a community based center for immigrant workers. OTEC and New Labor will partner with LIUNA-NJ Local 55, a new union local chartered to organize residential construction in New Jersey. The major setting for this project is the densely populated Newark area where LIUNA-NJ Local 55 will be opening new offices.
Project objectives of this study include the following:
- Training and developing a core group of union and non-union (New Labor and LIUNA Local 55) Safety Liaisons who will conduct informal, safety audits of common hazards (e.g. falls risks, trenching, and dry cutting), communicate with supervisors and employers about hazardous conditions and serve as peer mentors on residential construction sites;
- Offering a 10 hour residential construction health and safety training program facilitated by the Safety Liaisons to an additional 200 co-workers recruited by Safety Liaisons;
- Evaluating the individual and combined impact of Safety Liaisons and worker training on knowledge, attitudes, work practices, and worksite safety climate;
- Evaluating the dissemination of our curriculum, findings, and project methods.