Agriculture poses a number of occupational safety and health risks. As a result, it is a requirement that workers receive some mandatory training on the hazards they may encounter at work and how to protect themselves and mitigate those hazards while at work.
However, providing occupational safety and health training to agricultural workers has many challenges, especially when you look at the demographics of farmworkers in the United States.”
- Limited English proficiency
- Limited educational attainment
- High mobility
- Cultural differences
It’s important to take these factors into consideration when developing training curricula, because, ultimately, they will dictate how your trainings are delivered, how information is received, as well as their effectiveness. Below are some strategies to approaching these challenges:
- Learner Motivation: Design training based on information that is needed/wanted
- Assess Learner Knowledge: Build on what is known and the learner’s experiences
- Provide Context: Create learner demonstrations/activities based on real life
- Teach Specific Strategies: Develop techniques/solutions for learners to implement based on contextual activities
- Build Vocabulary: Use proper terminology and explain using learner colloquialisms
- Peer-to-Peer Education: Community learning that allows for learners to participate without fear and model teachings with feedback
AFOP Health & Safety Programs occupational trainings are designed specifically with the farmworker in mind. The National Farmworker Training Program (NFTP) creates low-literacy trainings focused on the how to prevent a health and safety hazard in their workplace. While they do introduce some of the proper terminology, AFOP’s trainers also incorporate vernacular that farmworkers use in the fields. This is intentional, as it connects the farmworker to his/her lived experience.
It is also helpful to involve trainees/farmworkers by having them participate in some of the interactive activities, as well as repeat back what’s being taught in their own words to ensure comprehension. Granted, there are different learning styles and ways of teaching, but AFOP’s NFTP prescribes to a combination of the passive and active learning styles, taking into account again who is receiving training and the related challenges. AFOP Health & Safety Programs’ NFTP trainings are intended to engage participants through visual aids and imagery that facilitate a dialogue among participants, trainers, and hopefully employers.
The key take-away is that, when designing any kind of training for under-served hard-to-reach populations like farmworkers, keep in mind that the training needs to be participant-focused, well-balanced, and, most of all, adaptable. Some of the pitfalls that low-literacy trainings encounter is the catch-all mentality of wanting to be creative and fun, therefore the message gets lost because materials are so overloaded with information in different formats that participants don’t know where to put their attention.
So, just some things to keep in mind if you are planning to develop materials for a similar population. Keep it simple; identify your purpose and challenges up-front; engage the learner – then you should be good to go!
Table NAWS 2015-16 US Demographic: https://www.doleta.gov/naws/research/data-tables/