On a regular basis we will be featuring some of our WOSH Specialists and Trainers who have returned to their workplace and have developed action plans that we can all benefit from learning about. All our featured worker leaders have used the WOSH Specialists and Trainers Networks to find resources, news and other information.
My experience as a WOSH Specialist has been truly positive because I have gained knowledge that has helped me as a worker and in my work on the Health Project at IDEPSCA, where I have been able to apply the knowledge I acquired in the WOSH training.
Collaborating with some of my co-workers who are also WOSH Specialists, we have been able to share valuable information with the base of our organization: day laborers and household workers. We have also organized Health Committees with day laborers and we are currently working with the committees to improve their working conditions. I have also had the opportunity to participate as a trainer in a WOSH Specialist class. These have been very enriching experiences and represent a big achievement for me. Thank you Jessica Marques, Deogracia Cornelio and all those who make these trainings possible.
–Patricia Rizo, IDEPSCA Health Promoter & WOSH Specialist
Phoenix House has a solid 40-year tradition of working with persons with drug, alcohol, and other behavioral and emotional difficulties. We have facilities for diverse populations in Southern California. San Diego contains a long- term residential academy in a rural town called Descanso 40 miles east of San Diego that houses residents from age 13 to 18. Care for this population is a great responsibility that we do not take lightly. The corporation has always put priority on the care, welfare, safety, and security of our clients and staff. This would explain why we value the WOSH program to help our community, both the staff and the youth, to raise awareness about potential workplace hazards so we can avoid problems before they happen.
Since 2004, Phoenix Houses of Southern California has had 50 staff trained as WOSH Specialists, with 5 staff going on to complete an advanced training-of-trainers course. Locally, we have embraced hazard mapping and enhanced and expanded our safety committee to include all levels of staff. We have enrolled additional staff in WOSH trainings held in this district and have made safety a part of our daily shift meeting. Our training program on policies and procedures is done in cycles annually and includes stress management, crisis prevention, evacuation, fire drills, CPR/first aid, and my personal favorite, living hazards (poisonous plants, rattle snakes, spiders, etc.). In addition, we have a high propensity for brush fires, so we require extensive training on local resources that monitor fire hazards to assure early warning systems. Weed abatement, tree removal, and structural checks are done on an ongoing basis, and we have committees that monitor different areas of concern.
We are pleased as well that we have included residents into our efforts. We initiated the WOSH curriculum for restaurant safety with the residents and were able to train the entire population. We recently received the “Safe Jobs for Youth” curriculum and we hope to begin a peer education program for some of our leaders to become educators in a safety program. All educational materials were provided to us by the Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program (LOSH) offices at the University of California Los Angeles through their long-term supportive relationship with us. Our clients walk the facility and cabins daily and report their findings in the shift meeting, on facility-run forms, or in person when possible. They are taught to participate in safety awareness right with the staff. In some cases, their awareness is more acute due to the fact that they reside here in the facility. We also are excited about the vocational aspect this provides for the future of our residents. In short, LOSH and the WOSH Specialist training have provided a way to build a safer community and uncovered a project that benefits the entire community.
–Andrew Strother, Phoenix House Lead Senior Counselor & WOSH Trainer
My name is Eugenio Barrera. I participated in a training for occupational health and safety specialists in December 2007. I thank all the instructors and supporters that made the three day event possible.
Thanks to LOSH's training, I was able to go back to my workplace with new ideas about health and safety. The company I work for has its own take on the subject. Because of the training, I was able to express my ideas and opinions about what I learned and my supervisor was very surprised. He let me implement what I learned on a trial basis, and to his surprise I was able to make three changes in my workplace:
- We now use floor mats, warning labels and equipment to dry wet floors in order to prevent slips and falls.
- It was made clear that employers, not workers, are primarily responsible for workplace safety.
- Cleaning equipment and supplies, such as mops, sponges, and brushes, are kept clean, inspected frequently, and stored in an isolated place to avoid contamination.
I want to thank everyone and hope that you continue with these training sessions that are so beneficial to the community. They will help us prevent accidents, protect our health, and create a better work environment in our different industries.
–Eugenio Barrera, SEIU member & WOSH Specialist
WOSH Trainer Cynthia Singleton wears many hats in her community as Vice President of the Southern California Coalition on Occupational Safety and Health (SoCalCOSH), Business Agent for the Utility Workers Union of America Local 132, and billing analyst for the Southern California Gas Co. Above all, she is serious about safety and health in the workplace, and believes that you should make safety a way of life.
As part of this way of life, Cynthia is active in many efforts to educate workers on policy and in facilitating ergonomic workshops for her co-workers. As a member of the health and safety committee at her job, she has taken actions such as circulating a survey to prioritize and address issues. She has also developed a monthly department newsletter that addresses their seasonal health and safety concerns. Cynthia's best advice to workers is to stretch daily, several times a day, no matter your age and physical ability. She says, “If you feel discomfort, don't ignore it. Get help immediately.”
“I have been shocked over, and over again, at the lack of safety training provided for the employees at many of the very large organizations that I have facilitated workshops for; they do not provide ergonomic equipment. Many of their workers have no idea what adjustments their chairs can provide for their comfort. When I heard some of the experiences of the workshop participants I got angry. I felt so sorry for them that they had to work with antique equipment, and with serious physical pain.”
Cynthia plans to continue spreading her safety message as a WOSH Trainer and applies the lessons learned calling herself a “Safety Avenger”.
–Cynthia Singleton, UWUA Local 132 Business Agent & WOSH Trainer