In the Field: Interactive Safety in the Workplace Trainings in Rural Oregon & Washington
Last week, MCN’s Alma R. Galván, MHC and Ileana Ponce-Gonzalez, MD, MPCH, CNC met up in some of the most agriculturally productive regions in the country for back-to-back occupational health and safety trainings for Community Health Workers serving agricultural workers.
The first training for Community Health Workers was hosted by One Community Health and by Next Door Inc., both of which provide important resources for their urban and rural communities along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. At One Community Health’s new state-of-the-art facility in The Dalles, Galván and Dr. Ponce-Gonzalez utilized a train-the-trainer model to cover topics like healthy practices in the workplace, chemical safety, heat stress, ladder safety and workers rights and responsibilities. The 12 trainers,nurses, and CHWs received 12 hours of training in all. “They were very knowledgeable and engaged, recognizing that the training would benefit the health of the workers they serve” Galván said, noting that some of the CHWs had over 20 years’ experience in their position serving the community, but all were grateful for additional training in worker-related health and safety, for which both providers and CHWs repeatedly report they don't receive sufficient training.
On the third day, Galván and Dr. Ponce-Gonzalez headed to Prescott, Washington for a one-day training with Vista Hermosa Foundation and Flat Top Ranch. Galván noted that the 15 participants were particularly intrigued by the focus on chemical exposure in houses adjacent to agricultural work. “Worker training is a win-win for the worker and the employer. Such trainings are proven to be cost effective for employers, because injured workers can cost employers in terms of productivity and insurance rates. For employees, they can avoid injuries that could potentially greatly affect their worklife and homelife.”
The interactive trainings wove in multidisciplinary activities to engage participants. “Participatory training provides a fertile ground for learners to share their own expertise and experiences,” Galván noted. When the topic turned to ladder safety, the training became hands-on: Ramiro Villanueva, an orchard field supervisor, demonstrated his skills and trained even the facilitators on proper ladder use outside the clinic building!
This is the first time that Galván and Dr. Ponce-Gonzalez were able to offer trainings together in person -- but their energy and cohesion as facilitators were evident from participant response. Galván and Dr. Ponce-Gonzalez were grateful for the hearty welcome from hosting groups and the attentiveness of participants.
The popular and effective trainings were conducted under MCN’s program, “Worker Safety and Health in Community Health Centers: A sustainable and integrative approach to immigrant safety,” which is sponsored by the OSHA Susan Harwood Training Grant Program. Last year alone, MCN trained over 800 workers in urban and rural communities for a total of over 1,600 contact hours. This very effective worker training program is currently under consideration for elimination on the President’s budget proposal. You can learn more about the OSHA Susan Harwood Program. Learn more about MCN’s efforts under the Susan Harwood Training Program at our Environmental and Occupational Health Initiatives page.