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Hispanic workers often get the most dangerous jobs in the U.S., and they face higher risks of death or injury at work, federal safety officials say.

Fighting that trend is the goal of a training alliance signed Tuesday by Hispanics United of Buffalo and the federal safety agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Under the agreement, OSHA will provide bi-lingual safety training to Hispanic workers.

Hispanics United -- a nonprofit on Buffalo's West Side -- will provide outreach and locations for the training sessions.

"We are focused on providing our population with skills and resources they need to be successful in the workplace," executive director Paula Alcala Rosner said.

Rosner said she hopes as many as 1,000 workers receive the safety training over the next year.

OSHA officials said trained workers can better guard against hazards, especially in temporary construction or landscaping jobs where safety policies may be lax.

"The employer is responsible for protecting safety and health," said Patricia K. Clark, OSHA's regional director for New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. "But in a day-labor situation, you're not going to have the best employers -- we recognize this is a particularly difficult area."

OSHA has launched a safety push for Hispanic workers nationwide after studies found an epidemic of workplace deaths. Fatalities rose 53 percent for Hispanics during the 1990s, while dropping 10 percent for others.

In recent years safety for Hispanic workers has improved, OSHA said, with job fatalities down 6 percent in 2003.

But the foreign-born still face disproportionate risks, Clark said. Of the 791 Hispanics who died on the job last year, 65 percent were foreign born. Language barriers and fear of speaking up about unsafe conditions are seen as likely reasons.

OSHA will provide 10-hour safety training sessions aimed at construction and general industry, Clark said. It will also train Hispanics United staff to perform safety training, while the state Labor Department provides training and consultation for employers.

OSHA signed two other agreements for safety programs on Tuesday in Western New York.

Concrete Applied Technologies Corp. or CATCO will take extra safety measures at road construction projects in Buffalo and Cheektowaga, aimed at reducing traffic and cave-in hazards, electrical dangers and exposure to silica.

Lehigh Construction Group in Orchard Park renewed an alliance to teach construction safety at area vocational schools and community colleges.


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