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LAWRENCE ߝ City of Lawrence and UMass Lowell officials announced on Nov. 30 that $2.7 million in federal funding has been received to launch a new program to prevent workplace injuries and dangerous exposure to silica among Hispanic workers.
More than 900 Hispanic workers died last year on the job in the United States. While 12 percent of the total workforce is Hispanic, workers from that ethnic group accounted for 16 percent of on-the-job deaths, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The new program, Protección en Construcción: Lawrence Latino Safety Partnership, is a joint effort of the Mayor’s Health Task Force, UMass Lowell, JSI Research and Training Institute Inc. of Boston and Laborers Union Local 175, which has more than 600 members locally.
Paul Marion, executive director of Outreach, represented UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan at the announcement and highlighted the project as an example of UML’s commitment to the Lawrence community. “We have a responsibility to this whole section of Massachusetts,” said Marion.
“The University is very proud to be a part of the project, Protección en Construcción: Lawrence Latino Safety Partnership, which will develop prevention strategies to decrease injuries and illness in Latino workers in Lawrence,” said Prof. Rafael Moure-Eraso, chair of UMass Lowell’s Department of Work Environment.
One in four workers fatally injured at work in 2005 was born outside the United States. Falls are among the most common causes of workplace deaths among construction workers, and more than 20 percent of those who were killed in such accidents were Hispanic. Last year, a Lawrence man was killed when he fell from scaffolding at a construction site in Easton.
“The results of falls are tragic,” said Prof. Lenore Azaroff of UMass Lowell’s Department of Work and Environment, who applied for the funding from NIOSH for the partnership. “This project will address this human suffering.”
The $2.7 million in research funds awarded to UMass Lowell for the partnership came from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a program of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dedicated to researching the prevention of workplace injuries, illness and fatalities. One of NIOSH’s research areas is preventing falls, the second leading cause of workplace deaths after motor vehicle crashes. Exposure to silica dust from grinding or cutting concrete is a major cause of potentially deadly conditions including silicosis, lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis and diseases of the airways.
“It’s great that NIOSH recognized the issue and chose to fund the terrific partnership that has developed between the partners, including the city of Lawrence and UMass Lowell,” said June Black, regional coordinator for U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, who represents the Fifth Congressional District, including Lawrence and Lowell.
The research and training conducted in Lawrence will be used as a national model for worker safety programs elsewhere around the country.
“As mayor, I am supportive of the Proteccion en Construccion project with our partners at UMass Lowell. This project is the first of its kind in the nation; I know we will have great success,” said Lawrence Mayor Michael J. Sullivan.
“Latino workers are the fastest growing percentage of construction workers,” said Michael Gagliardi, business manager for Laborers Local 175. “It is our hope the research we conduct will become a national model to ensure Latino workers are safe in the workplace.”
UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health. UML offers its 11,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. www.uml.edu.