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On-job safety for minorities stressed

U. plans a one-day seminar Friday on workers’ comp

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Organizers of a University of Utah seminar about the impact on workers' compensation of a growing number of on-the-job injuries among minorities are hoping more employers will sign up.

This Friday's one-day seminar, "Ethical Management of Cultural Diversity in Workers Compensation," will address legal and medical aspects of handling diversity in the workplace, said Connie Crandall, continuing education program director at the U.'s Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health.

"Accidents have increased with the minority population in the state," Crandall said. "Right now there are 67 registered. We would like to see more, it's such a widespread problem."

Norman Nakamura, state coordinator for refugee resettlement at the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said language barriers present a key safety concern, as Utah continues to see a growth in its immigrant population.

Utah's foreign-born population grew from 58,600 in 1990 to 142,753 in 2000, accounting for about 20 percent of Utah's total population growth over the decade, Nakamura said.

"Employers need to make adjustments to keep workers safe," Nakamura said. "It is becoming increasingly challenging for employers. They can't discriminate against anyone for not speaking English, if that person is capable of doing the job."

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that workplace fatalities were falling nationwide in 2000 and 2001, but deaths among Hispanic workers rose — by 12 percent in 2000 and 10 percent in 2001.

Peter Groesbeck, workplace safety program coordinator at the Utah Labor Commission, said injury and death rates for Utah weren't available, but he has seen an unusually high accident rate among immigrant workers.

A poor safety record, he said, translates to higher workers' compensation premiums for employers.

In mediating workers' compensation suits, Groesbeck said immigrant Hispanic workers seem to be prone to on-the-job accidents, such as losing fingers.

"That's unusual. I haven't seen that with the rest of the population," he said. "It concerns me that we have that kind of difference in the safety culture. Immigrants coming out of Mexico haven't had the training."

The program at the Marriott University Park Hotel costs $95. For more information, contact Luz Dominguez at 801-581-4055.

E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com