By Sara Jacobs | UCLA - Labor Occupational Safety & Health (LOSH) Program
Since 2004, the national Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP) has played a vital role in mentoring and inspiring a new generation of occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals. OHIP has grown substantially over the past eight years and has successfully responded to workforce changes by recruiting a more diverse group of students who have different academic and technical skills, and who speak the languages of the workers involved in their projects.
“OHIP students bring a lot of energy, focus and intelligence to their projects. It’s great to watch them work well with stakeholders and become excited about what they are doing to help prevent a workplace injury or illness. For many it’s a life changing experience,” commented 2011 OHIP mentor and supervisor David Harrington from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Occupational Health Branch.
This year may have been OHIP’s most successful summer, with 28 interns playing a crucial role in some of the most exciting worker health and safety movements across the country. Placed at seven OHIP training centers (San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Chicago, Boston and New York City), each 2011 OHIP student worked on one of 15 team projects during the nine-week summer internship. Students were paired with a particular union or worker organization to explore health and safety concerns among workers employed in underserved or high hazard jobs. They had the unique opportunity to talk with workers, visit worksites and develop something useful to “give back” to the workers.
Three notable 2011 OHIP projects were from the San Francisco Bay Area. The first investigated the impact of policies and procedures on violence-related injuries and illness, including stress, experienced by mental health care workers at Napa State Hospital. The second evaluated the usage and barriers of silica dust control tools and methods among construction workers since the adoption of Cal/OSHA construction regulation on controlling silica dust. The third researched living and working conditions of Filipino caregivers in South San Francisco.
OHIP interns Michelle Santizo and Cassandra Porchas worked on the Silica Project with San Francisco Bay Area Bricklayers and Roofers Unions. "The moment you understand a construction worker’s job is the moment you appreciate everything they do from pouring cement to standing in the sun for many hours," said Santizo. "Sometimes breathing in silica is their only way of making a living."
Santizo and Porchas, along with their apprentice programs and contractors, produced the video Don't Let Silica Dust You! Their OHIP “give back” video is intended to increase awareness of silica dust issues and controls.
“My expectations for the project were exceeded,” remarked Porchas. “I am grateful I had the opportunity to gain access to so many worksites with the help of the participating unions and with the efforts of my site supervisor. There was never a dull moment.”
Santizo and six other 2011 OHIP interns presented their summer projects at the American Public Health Association (APHA) 139th Annual Meeting in Washington DC on November 2. Details about all the 2011 projects and OHIP funders (NIOSH, the California Wellness Foundation, NIEHS, CDPH, Kazan Foundation, and other partners) will be posted on the new OHIP website that will launch early next year.
Find this article and others online at http://coeh.berkeley.edu/bridges