Resources for Vulnerable Workers

March 21, 2004
Experts define vulnerable workers as young, old, female or immigrant. The federal government offers a number of resources to help these workers.

Young Workers

NIOSH has issued a special report, "Preventing Deaths, Injuries and Illnesses of Young Workers" (DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2003-128) which can be found at www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2003-128/2003128.htm. The report urges employers to:

  • Recognize the hazards by assessing and eliminating hazards in the workplace. Make sure equipment used by young workers is safe and legal. Visit www.dol.gov/dol/topic/youthlabor/hazardousjobs.htm or call 1-866-;4-USADOL.
  • Supervise young workers and make sure that supervisors and adult coworkers are aware of tasks young workers may or may not perform. Label equipment that young workers cannot use, or color-code uniforms of young workers so that others will know they cannot perform certain jobs.
  • Provide training in hazard recognition and safe work practices. Have young workers demonstrate that they can perform assigned tasks safely and correctly. Ask young workers for feedback about the training.
  • Know and comply with child labor laws and occupational safety and health regulations that apply to their business. State laws may be more restrictive than federal laws, and they vary considerably from state to state. These regulations should be posted for workers to read. For information about federal child labor laws, visit www.dol.gov/dol/topic/youthlabor/index.htm or call 1-866-4-USADOL. Links to state labor offices are available at www.ilsa.net or www.youthrules.dol.gov/states.htm.
  • Develop an injury and illness prevention program and a process for identifying and solving safety and health problems. OSHA consultation programs are available in every state to help employers identify hazards and improve their safety and health management programs. Visit www.osha.gov/oshprogs/consult.html.

Immigrant Workers

OSHA offers a Spanish-language Web site for workers at www.osha.gov/as/opa/spanish/index.html.

States under federal OSHA offer consultation and compliance assistance and can help with training and education of immigrant workers. Visit www.osha.gov/dcsp/smallbusiness/consult.html for more information about federal OSHA programs or, if you're in a state-plan state, visit www.osha.gov/fso/osp/index.html to find a consultation office in your area.

OSHA has signed agreements with employer groups and associations pertaining to alliances and partnerships to improve safety for immigrant or Hispanic workers. For more information, visit www.osha.gov/fso/vpp/partnership/index.html (partnerships) or www.osha.gov/dcsp/alliances/index.html (alliances).

Women Workers

For a variety of information about occupational safety and health for women workers, visit the topic page for Women's Safety and Health Issues at Work at www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/women. This page contains links to related NIOSH topic pages, as well as additional resources related to women's health, research on occupational safety and health for women and women at work.

Aging Workers

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety offers a Web page devoted to issues related to aging workers at www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/aging_workers.html. It includes information about accommodations, specific health and safety concerns for older workers and the changes that occur in cognitive functions with age.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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