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In the Field: In Wisconsin, Dairy Worker Health and Safety Trainings in Action

After a lengthy journey from Maryland, Kerry Brennan, MCN’s Environmental and Occupational Health Program Associate, arrived in Wisconsin last week (to single-digit weather!) to pilot a training that couples English as a Second Language (ESL) with dairy worker safety and health as part of MCN’s OSHA Susan Harwood grant. Kerry also attended a meeting on community health workers (CHWs) at the Marshfield Clinic.

MCN's Kerry at Marshfield Clinic

On Thursday, she headed to the Marshfield Clinic, home of the National Farm Medicine Center, MCN’s primary partner for our dairy worker health and safety projects. There, Kerry participated in a Governor’s Rural Health Development Council meeting on developing a statewide credentialing program for community health workers.  Kerry was able to provide MCN’s perspective, based on our involvement in a similar initiative in Texas. The participants represented urban and rural groups utilizing CHWs and other entities involved in the potential credentialing of CHWs. The group discussed the challenges and benefits of formalizing the various roles of CHWs. The possibility of validating their important work as well as obtaining more stable, funded jobs at health centers are the greatest benefits to this system.

MCN at Safety in Words training

That evening, Kerry visited a dairy farm to pilot MCN’s ESL safety and health training for immigrant dairy workers. These trainings complement MCN’s Safety in Words, a bilingual picture dictionary that is a favorite of farmers and workers alike. Shaun Duvall led 11 dairy worker participants in this ESL training focused on working safely with machinery.  Shaun went over pronouns, the verb “to be,” and other useful, basic English vocabulary. “Adding in an English language learning component to health and safety really kept their attention and built interest in the training content. They asked if we’d be doing more classes and were adamant about finding more ESL resources,” says Kerry. The farmer offered to bring the workers to the local library and assist in getting more materials to study.

The following morning, Kerry and Shaun facilitated the second training focused on preparing for  emergencies, ensuring that workers know the address of the farm, and other essential information to provide to a 911 operator in English. Shaun taught relevant verbs in the infinitive form in English and Spanish.

MCN at dairy farm, Wisconsin

After the training, Diego, a dairy worker and participant in both trainings, took Kerry on a tour of the farm, where she assisted in corralling over 100 cows into the milking parlor, and where she got to witness a cow giving birth!

After all the excitement, Kerry had to once again brave the poor weather and make her way east, back to Maryland. We’re glad you made it back safely, Kerry!