Aiding Those on the Front Line

August 21, 2020

Community Health Workers (CHWs) are frontline, public health workers who serve as a bridge between underserved communities and healthcare systems. They are from, or have a close understanding of, the community served. The critical role they play in keeping communities healthy is needed now more than ever to help those who are ill and to educate hard to reach populations on how they can remain healthy and help end the spread of the coronavirus. But like many low-wage workers, CHWs own health and safety is not always given the priority it deserves. MassCOSH has been working with these workers to ensure they stay safe on the job while helping those who have a hard time helping themselves.
In July, MassCOSH provided two one-hour-long trainings for 45 CHWs who go into the homes of those who suffer from chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, and heart conditions. The trainings include the basics of health and safety, such as what OSHA is and its role in protecting workers, the rights they have nationally and in the state, and now includes how to protect themselves from the coronavirus. Given how risky entering people’s homes has become, MassCOSH trains CHWs to set up appointments over the phone, asking if the client feels ill or has been in contact with sick people, and how to establish rules over the call, including keeping six feet from their clients, opening windows if they can, and insisting all parties wear masks.
Having led many CHW trainings, including the above, MassCOSH’s Trainer and Technical Consultant Rick Rabin has been asked to head an extensive training for a team of hard-hit Texas CHWs this month. Consisting of eight sections and totaling 15 hours, four CHWs and one supervisor will become experts on how to protect themselves during and after the pandemic and train others on the lifesaving information, helping to mitigate the risks these vulnerable but critical workers face.