Justin Pritchard's article ("Dying to Work," Associated Press, March 14) is not only full of mischaracterizations, it is inaccurate from the very first sentence.
When Pritchard began his article by saying that Mexican-born workers are involved in a "worsening epidemic" of workplace fatalities, he deliberately ignored the fact that fatalities for Mexican-born workers dropped 8.3 percent in 2002, the most recent year for which data are available, after OSHA kicked off a comprehensive effort to address the trend. That's a larger drop than for Hispanic workers in general and for the entire work force. Pritchard never mentioned this key detail — which he had received from the Bureau of Labor Statistics — anywhere in his entire article.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is well aware that the number of Hispanic workers who died due to work-related injuries rose from 1995 to 2001, and that their rates of injuries and illnesses are still too high, despite 2002's significant drop.
Early in this Administration, OSHA determined that a comprehensive effort was needed to reach out to Spanish-speaking workers and their employers.
We launched a three-prong attack combining vigorous enforcement of health and safety standards, outreach to the Latino community and effective education.
A Departmental Hispanic Workers Task Force was created to coordinate this effort, and it is working, as evidenced by the 2002 drop in workplace fatalities among Hispanic workers generally and Mexican-born workers specifically. We have also created strong alliances with Hispanic organizations, including Mexican consulates, across the nation.
More information than ever before is now available in Spanish about job safety and health via the Web, in publications and through specialized training courses.
More Spanish-speaking inspectors and outreach staff are being hired. More inspections are being targeted to industries with high injury rates that employ large numbers of Hispanic workers, such as construction and landscaping.
In short, OSHA is continuing to push hard to ensure that employers properly fulfill their responsibilities and make the workplaces safer for Hispanic workers — and all American workers every day. The fact is the fatality numbers are going down and the truth is OSHA will continue working to ensure the health and safety of all workers, including Hispanic workers.
John Henshaw is assistant secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health in the U.S. Department of Labor.