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Occupational safety and health of Hispanic/Latino immigrant workers in the United States: focus group findings.

Flynn-M; Eggerth-DE; Jacobson-CJ Jr.
Book of Abstracts. Globalization and Equity: Consequences for Health Promotion Policies and Practices. 7th IUHPE European Conference on Health Promotion and Health Education, 18-21 October 2006, Budapest, Hungary. Budapest, Hungary: National Institute for Health Development, 2006 Oct; :134-135
Background: In the last decade, the immigrant stream of Hispanic/Latinos from Latin America into the United States has undergone a significant change in flow. Historically, these immigrant workers went to areas with established Spanish-speaking communities. However, in recent years the rate of immigration to these traditional destinations has flattened and areas such as the American Midwest and Southeast that have not previously been destinations for these immigrants have seen an exponential increase in the size of their Hispanic/Latino communities. This sudden and unexpected increase has created considerable stress within these new areas as both agencies and employers come to understand and build relationships with these recent immigrants. This stress is also reflected within the immigrant community, particularly in the workplace. It is important to recognize that economic opportunity is the primary, if not the only reason for most Hispanic/Latinos to immigrate to the United States. A very large majority of these immigrants are undocumented and as a consequence are socially marginalized. For many, the workplace is their primary site for interaction with the larger American Society. Therefore, investigation of their workplace concerns and experiences has the potential to provide a very rich and deep understanding of the Hispanic/Latino immigrant experience in the United States. Aims: This presentation will present findings from 8 focus groups conducted with Hispanic/Latino immigrants from Latin America and will discuss reports of occupational safety and health concerns, risk perception, risk acceptance and evidence for the impact of culture on workplace safety. Methods: Four of the groups were held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a traditional or "old settlement" area and 4 of which were held in Cincinnati, Ohio, a non-traditional or "new settlement" area. The participants in these focus groups were all recent immigrants, all averaging less than 18 months in the United States. Half were male and half female. All had less than a high school education. The participants were asked to share their perceptions of safety risks and their experiences related to occupational safety and health. Results: Analysis of these focus groups suggest that most Hispanic/Latino immigrants, regardless of settlement location, share similar problems related to illegal immigration status and from working low wage, physically demanding jobs. However, there are also indications that immigrants to old settlement areas may benefit in key ways, such as access to health care, range of employment opportunities and somewhat better workplace safety. There also appears to be evidence that hypothesized Hispanic/ Latino cultural traits do impact risk perception and risk acceptance in the workplace. Conclusions: Overall, many Hispanic/Latino immigrants tend to perceive low levels of risk on their jobs. Even those who do acknowledge unsafe work activities tend to downplay the level of risk. Almost all report that financial need would compel them to accept all but the most clearly dangerous situations. Clearly, effective occupational safety and health interventions for Hispanic/Latino immigrant workers will need to address these issues.
Racial-factors; Injury-prevention; Accident-prevention; Safety-research
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Work Environment and Workforce: Special Populations; Construction
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Book of Abstracts. Globalization and Equity: Consequences for Health Promotion Policies and Practices. 7th IUHPE European Conference on Health Promotion and Health Education, 18-21 October 2006, Budapest, Hungary.