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MCN's New Worker Safety Project Serves the Haitian Community

Farmworker harvests apples

(Photo by Earl Dotter)

Habacuc Petion’s father was working the midnight shift sanitizing at a chicken processing plant when his hand caught on the conveyor belt. Petion’s father suffered a broken hand, and dislocated his shoulder. “If it wasn’t for the other workers who were present, it could have been worse,” Petion recalled. Petion, Executive Director of Rebirth, Inc., has dedicated his life’s work to supporting the Haitian community in the Delmarva Peninsula, a largely agricultural coastal region where Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia meet, and home to MCN’s Eastern Region Office. In the last 15 years, Petion says, the Haitian immigrant community in this area has grown substantially, from just a few hundred, to five to seven thousand people, many coming to follow employment opportunities from New York or Florida, Petion said, swapping their seasonal migrant farmwork for full-time permanent employment, like Petion’s father, at food processing, year-round agriculture, and construction. Many still migrate through the Delmarva Peninsula to assist during harvest of apples and watermelons, or for the crab season. All of the workers -- migrants and permanent -- encounter health and safety risks at their workplaces, and this year, Petion has teamed up with Migrant Clinicians Network to assure that workplace illnesses and injuries are prevented, with a special focus on the Haitian community.

“Our local economy benefits greatly from the contributions of our Haitian community, but we lack programs, in a language and format they understand, to address workplace safety.” said Amy K. Liebman, MCN’s Director of Environmental and Occupational Health, and director of this project.  “MCN is excited to partner with Rebirth in order to reach Haitian workers. When workers are safe on the job, everyone benefits including the workers, their families, the businesses who employ them and the communities where they reside.”


Farmworkers pose with harvest

(Photo by Earl Dotter)

MCN’s new project, “Filling the Gap in Worker Training: Capacity Building for Occupational Safety and Health,” will include train-the-trainer workshops on the Delmarva Peninsula so that Rebirth can train workers in Haitian Creole on issues of occupational safety and health.   Supported by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Susan Harwood program, the program will also provide trainings in English and Spanish via webinars and at other sites around the country, for a total of 870 trained workers. The topics will include heat safety, chemical safety and hazard communication, ergonomics, and workers’ rights and responsibilities.

“I think the project is a very good one for the community,” Petion said. “It'll help educate a lot of people about prevention, work-related injuries, workers’ right, ergonomics and safety hazards,  I am pleased and excited to be part of it and I can't wait to start.”

Read more about MCN’s Environmental and Occupational Health initiatives on our website.


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