In the Field: Health and Safety for Workers at Castañer General Hospital
[Editor’s Note: We’re celebrating the work of outreach teams in the Castañer region of Puerto Rico! Three different teams headed out to the streets this summer to provide comprehensive trainings on chemical safety for workers. Read the first blog post here.]
This May and June, the Castañer General Hospital team carried out orientations in the community and the surrounding regions to instruct workers on the risks of the chemical exposure that they confront daily and to demonstrate the correct use of personal protective equipment. Staff members Elizabeth Bonilla, Jenniffer Vega, Brenda Rosado, and Zuleyka Camacho worked jointly to provide 31 trainings, reaching a total of 175 workers. This occupational health and safety program is sponsored by MCN and funded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Susan Harwood Program. Among the workers who received education and protective equipment were:
- Environmental services employees
- Construction workers
- School cafeteria employees
- Bakers and cafe employees
- Beauty salons and barbershop employees
We were thrilled to be able to provide help and guidance to those who go to work every day to serve our community. They expressed their gratitude and satisfaction with the provided resources and protective equipment, such as glasses, gloves, vests, and reflectors.
We began by training the Environmental Services staff, cafeteria workers, and construction workers at our own hospital because they are highly vulnerable to injury from accidents and exposure to dangerous chemicals and contaminants, given that they work in a hospital environment and they were accessible. We then decided to go out into the community to reach other populations.
Our most commonly used approach was simply to get to the work area, identify ourselves, and let [the know our purpose there. Many permitted our work right then and there, and we got to work training the workers on a rotating basis, always being mindful of their time and availability. For some locations [who didn’t want a drop-in training], we coordinated the dates.
[At each site] after we identified the worker, we selected the most relevant educational materials depending on the subject we were going to discuss and the work area. When we went to the community [without a predetermined audience], we took a variety in information and protective equipment.
On one occasion we found workers spraying pesticides without any protection, even with inappropriate clothes such as shorts and without gloves. We provided them with a training, after which they told us that they were unaware of the protective equipment they should use and, in addition, they told us that their employers did not provide them with any equipment. At the same time, they were unaware of the risks to which they were exposed because they did not know about the ways that chemicals enter the body. Many knew part of the information, but the reality is that they did not put it into practice. Our training primarily served as a review. There was a gentleman who knew the information completely and served us as a guide and supporter, sharing his knowledge and experiences. It was gratifying to notice the attention they gave us when discussing the information.
We are extremely satisfied with the work done, happy to have been able to carry information, which we know was and will be useful both for workers’ health, in their daily life and in their respective areas of work. In carrying out this work, we all agree that we grew both personally and professionally. It was a great satisfaction to be able to observe, after a few days, the use of the protection equipment that was given. We ended up understanding that what took place was really effective.
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