Reengaging the Hispanic Workforce Through Innovation

By: Jackeline Ardon, NHEO Institute
May 7, 2019 9:35 AM ET
Blog

Industry injuries among non-native English speakers on the rise

A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report indicated that across all employment types and demographics fatal work injuries have decreased from 5,190 in 2016 to 5,147 in 2017, and the numbers of fatalities in construction and extraction occupation have fallen from 970 to 965. However, fatalities among Hispanic and Latino workers have increased from 879 to 903 over the same time span.

The National Hispanic Entrepreneurs’ Organization (NHEO) Institute is a non-profit leading the Building a Safer Future campaign that tackles this issue by providing support to local communities and corporations among Hispanic workers. Since, January 2018, the NHEO Institute has successfully recruited more than 350 companies for this campaign and has enrolled more than 75 volunteers. The focus is on outreach work, delivering the campaign in schools and universities, and at industry conferences across the country. This campaign was introduced on several project sites to raise awareness of the problems NHEO was solving through its initiative and to gain further support and engagement.

Bechtel is one of our partners to identify and eliminate barriers within its industry among its non-native English speakers.

Case study observations

The project’s campaign commenced with exploratory discussions with Bechtel executives such as Chief Innovation Officer David Wilson and ES&H Special Operations and Innovation Manager Chris Forbes. Conversations revolved around how to minimize work-related incidents amongst its Hispanic workforce, which would benefit both the project and the workers. Initial conversations led to on-site meetings with safety leaders and the workforce at large.  The formulation of a study group led by NHEO helped identified the following issues:

  1. Hispanic workers were hesitant about speaking up regarding safety concerns for fear of reprisal
  2. Language barriers among non-native English speakers led to inadequate comprehension of safety information
  3. Workers described feeling a lack of empowerment

Fostering collaboration with industry leaders like Bechtel

Bechtel and NHEO selected the engagement of Hispanic workers in safety practices as the predominant emphasis of the partnership to address all the concerns the field workers had expressed in the study group. To reinforce this safety culture, communication tools like posters, hard hat stickers, wrist bands, and others were employed to emphasize the importance of preventing incidents on site. Other features of the wider campaign included monthly educational webinars led by industry experts and partners sharing best practices in health and safety.

Through NHEO’s diverse bilingual team, we were able to help Bechtel facilitate field-worker centered workshops to fully understand priority issues.

"Preventing accidents is a never-ending task that requires everyone’s full attention and various techniques to improve the safety culture. NHEO’s Building a Safer Future campaign helped us to build additional prevention tools,” commented Capt. Norman H. Black, Project Environmental, Safety, and Health Manager for Bechtel’s Oil, Gas & Chemical business unit.

Engagement

The English-speaking workforce was curious about the initiative’s signs and stickers. Their interest in the project led to all the Spanish communication materials being translated and a broadening in the project’s participation. The success of the project saw it become a formalized part of Bechtel’s existing safety process, in particular, within pre-STARRT (Safety Task Analysis and Risk Reduction Talk), the process for discussions prior to work starting, and within the Construction Professional Initiative (CPI) where supervisors were trained to communicate effectively with staff.

“Worker safety is a critical priority for our industry,” said JP Giometti, board member at NHEO Institute. “This collaboration with Bechtel is a major milestone in dramatically improving the way organizations reengage the Hispanic workforce to identify and eliminate hazards in the workplace.”

Innovations in Bechtel’s safety practices

Bechtel’s commitment to its employees and their families led to the Use Your Voice initiative developed as an off-shoot to the Building a Safer Future campaign enterprise to engage Spanish speaking employees. The concept of Use Your Voice was used to expand its safety campaign practices to include native English speakers and also empower them to speak up when observing any unsafe practices or conditions. These implementations facilitated more engagement across all levels of management and field workers which can be seen in their Corpus Christi Liquefied Natural Gas Project.

“The concept of the Use Your Voice is primarily used in the People Based Safety activities where trained observers interface exclusively with fellow craft employees to identify and correct unsafe acts,” commented Capt. Norman H. Black.

Compelling results in Bechtel’s Corpus Christi LNG Project

By the end of 2018 a liquified natural gas (LNG) facility that Bechtel had been working on began producing LNG. Despite proving to be a challenging and complex construction project, Bechtel was able to achieve an impressive zero lost time incidents. Although the site was not completely incident free, there were no major injuries amongst a workforce of over 3,000 people, many with Hispanic backgrounds. The success of this report is being attributed in part to the partnership between the NHEO Building a Safer Future campaign and Bechtel’s Use Your Voice initiative. Contributing measurable metrics to the overall discussion of preventing construction related injuries among Hispanic workers.  

Prioritizing Incident Prevention for 2019

Preventing incidents is a never-ending task and responsibility as safety extends to everyone in the organization. By developing a culture where everyone shares responsibility for safety, it’s possible to drive continuous improvements in working methods, which then drives standards across an organization. Use Your Voice is one of those prevention tools and that is why Bechtel, who was instrumental in leading the campaign, plans to expand their participation into further projects in 2019. As a consequence of their contribution and commitment to safety and health innovation throughout this project, Bechtel was selected as the Safety Excellence Award winner in 2018 by the NHEO Institute.

NHEO high-profile supporters include the former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Hon. Rodney Slater, the former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Hon. Mary E. Peter and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Crisanta Duran in the state of Colorado.

Partnerships working

Procore, a construction project management software company, also partnered with NHEO to support the project. Procore corroborates with non-profit organizations that work to support local communities. Their partnership with NHEO helped provide institute members with early access to the “Procore Safety Qualified” program. This online learning initiative provided free online classes designed to give construction professionals the specific technical tools and knowledge they need to create a culture of safety awareness on every job site.

About NHEO Institute

NHEO Institute promotes and supports the advancement and growth of all contractors to reach their full potential. We are committed to quality and safety while working toward solving our industry’s productivity and workforce training challenges. NHEO was founded in 2008 and is headquartered in Houston, TX with more than 20,000 community members including construction contractors, mentors, service providers, corporations, academia, and government.

www.nheo.org