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Building a Safer Future One Worker at a Time

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Non-English speakers don’t always understand safety information on construction jobsites, which could put them at risk of injury. To tackle this issue, the National Hispanic Entrepreneurs’ Organization (NHEO) Institute set out to bridge the line of communication between companies and their non-English-speaking workers through its Building a Safe Future Campaign

The organization estimates that it exceeded its goal of reaching 1 million people in 2018, according to Jackeline Ardon, the corporate communications specialist at NHEO Institute.

“Many times the owners say ‘I don’t want to invest in technology, I don’t want to invest in training.’ They want the best work on time, but they don’t want to listen to what’s going on in the field. Commitment from the leadership is important to change the culture,” explained Ardon.

The NHEO Institute awarded Bechtel and Chavez Trim its 2018 Safety Awards, which promote companies who empower their workers. Each of these businesses rolled out campaigns on their jobsites.

Bechtel teamed up with NHEO in its Corpus Christi liquefied natural gas (LNG) project. Through this collaboration, they impacted more than 3,000 craft employees during the construction of the facility, which resulted in zero lost-time incidents. 

“Originally, the Spanish-only initiative directed employees to use their voice aimed at any level to speak up when an unsafe act, behavior or condition was observed,” said Bechtel Compliance Manager Norm Black. 

This initiative, however, sprouted the “Use your Voice” concept at Bechtel which promotes safety principles with native English speakers as well. 

For each participating company, the emphasis is not on preventing particular types of accidents. Instead, it is on empowering Hispanic workers to speak up if something on the job doesn’t appear safe. Language barriers could sometimes play a factor in accidents.

The campaign also addresses workers’ lives off the job, through focus groups and safety meetings. 

“We look at safety across the lives of these people, even when they go home. One of the reasons we target their wife and kids, is many times a worker might leave the job and they might drink or use drugs. All of this can create an unsafe environment for the family,” said Ardon. 

After all, workers “need to have a safety culture in their lives. In the end, if they don’t take care of themselves, if they don’t sleep well, if they don’t exercise, or if they don’t get sober, they’re not going to be performing on the jobsite,” added Ardon. 

Reaching one million people includes the wives and families of workers who benefit from workers’ safe behaviors.

According to a recent release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, across all employment types and demographics, fatal work injuries decreased from 5,190 in 2016 to 5,147 in 2017, and the number of deaths in construction and extraction occupations fell from 970 to 965. However, overall fatal work injuries for Hispanic and Latino workers increased from 879 to 903 over the same period. 

The NHEO Institute recruited more than 350 companies for the campaign since January 2018, and it enrolled more than 75 volunteers. To help drive awareness, the initiative was also introduced in several schools, universities, and industry conferences across the country.

Through NHEO’s partnership with Procore, members received early access to the Procore Safety Qualified program. The online learning initiative gives construction professionals the tools and knowledge to create a culture of safety awareness on every jobsite. The program consists of free online classes that focus on the five most common Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations.  

The campaign’s other sponsors and supporters include Univision, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Hon. Rodney Slater, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Hon. Mary E. Peters, and Speaker of the House of Representatives Crisanta Duran in the state of Colorado.


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