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The construction industry is turning to technology to reduce potentially fatal work-related injuries among Hispanic workers. The imitative centers on Sed de Saber™-Construction Edition, a training tool developed by the Home Builders Institute, the workforce development arm of the National Association of Home Builders, to teach English to Hispanic adults.

The take-home electronic learning tool could improve worksite communication and safety, according to NAHB President Sandy Dunn, a homebuilder from Point Pleasant, WV. Based on technology from Emeryville, CA-based Leapfrog Enterprises, the stand-alone educational product gives construction workers the choice to listen, record and play back the pronunciation of more than 500 vocabulary words and 340 phrases.

“Evidence strongly suggests that communication is a major factor in improving safety, and with the growing number of Hispanic employees in our industry, it’s extremely important that everyone on-the-job site understands one another,” Dunn says, describing Sed de Saber-Construction Edition as “one of the most efficient tools available for teaching construction-related English to Spanish speaking workers.”

Hispanic workers face a greater than average risk of dying of on-the-job injuries, with construction sites representing a particular area of concern, US health officials say. Between 1992 and 2006, 11,303 Hispanic workers died of work-related injuries. This represents about 13% of all work-related deaths nationwide, a higher rate than for white or black workers, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Work-related fatalities are going down for the workforce in general, but the disparity between Hispanic and non-Hispanic is persistent and not going away,” notes Dr. Sherry Baron, coordinator of the Occupational Health Disparities Program at the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

According to previous CDC research, Hispanic workers are at greater risk because of language and cultural barriers and inadequate training and supervision. Hispanics represent the fastest growing part of the US workforce. In 2006, about 19.6 million U.S. workers were Hispanic. Of these, 56% were foreign-born, according to a report in the June 6 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The average age of Hispanic workers who died of work-related injuries was 35, compared with 42 for other workers. Almost all the victims–95%–were men. Between 2000 and 2006, falls were the most common cause of deaths among Hispanic workers. To prevent work-related deaths among Hispanics, employers need to provide a safer working environment, and government safety and health agencies need to provide Hispanic workers with safety information and make sure worksites comply with existing safety rules, Baron said.

To prevent work-related injury deaths among Hispanics, the CDC says:

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