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Hispanic/Latino immigrant workers in the United States: challenges for occupational safety and health promotion.

Eggerth DE
7th Conference of the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology: Proceedings. 8 - 10 November, 2006, Dublin, Ireland. Castelo da maia, Spain: Edicoes ISMAI, 2006 Nov; :280-281
There are currently over 32 million persons of Hispanic/Latino descent living in the United States, approximately half of whom are foreign born. It is estimated that by the year 2050, more than 25% of the U.S. population will be of Hispanic/Latino descent and that Hispanic/Latinos will make up 15% of the U.S. workforce. Historically, most Hispanic/Latino immigrants settled in areas of the United States closest to their countries of origin and which had well established Hispanic/Latino communities. However, in the last decade areas that have not historically been destinations for these immigrants have experienced explosive growth in their Hispanic/Latino populations. Immigrants to these areas are challenged by the lack of a Spanish speaking infrastructure and both community service agencies and employers that are virtually unprepared to meet their needs. Current statistics indicate that across all industries in the United States, Hispanic/Latino workers experience higher rates of fatal workplace injuries (5.2/100,000 v. 4.5/100,000) than non-Hispanic/Latino workers. Between 1992 and 2002, the number of fatal work injuries involving all Hispanic/Latino workers increased significantly. However, when one examines this data for American-born Hispanic/Latinos v. Hispanic/Latino immigrants, two quite different trends appear. On an annual basis, the number of fatal injuries among American-born Hispanic/Latinos has essentially stabilized. In contrast, injury rates for Hispanic/Latino immigrant workers continue to rise steadily from year to year. Clearly, a significant occupational safety and health disparity exists among Hispanic/Latino immigrants working in the United States. The ever increasing numbers of Hispanic/Latino immigrant workers in the U.S. have increased the demand for Spanish-language occupational safety and health training materials. Typically, this need has been met by translating existing, English-language training materials into Spanish rather than developing new materials specifically designed for Hispanic/Latino immigrant workers. Critics suggest that such efforts frequently fall short of the mark because of poor translations and a failure to address the cultural, legal and socio-economic realities that differentiate Hispanic/Latino immigrant workers from the native-born workers for whom the training materials were originally developed. Some employers rely upon their most "bilingual" Hispanic/Latino employee to translate training sessions into Spanish as they are being presented concurrently in English. Obviously, the translation skill of the employee can greatly impact the effectiveness of such training sessions. Regardless of specific cause for these occupational safety and health training failures, the data suggest that it is imperative that the effectiveness of occupational safety and health training must be improved. Overall, the Hispanic/Latino immigrant population in the United States, particularly in nontraditional settlement areas, presents many unique challenges for occupational safety and health. Trainers are challenged by barriers of both language and culture. Occupational safety and health officials are challenged by distrust on the part of the many undocumented Hispanic/Latino immigrant workers for any government official. These problems are compounded by Hispanic/Latinos, particularly recent immigrants, being overrepresented in the most dangerous jobs. The three presentations in this symposium will discuss the following topics in relationship to occupational safety and health training: An overview of the occupational safety and health disparities experienced by Hispanic/Latino immigrants working in the United States. The results of a virtually unique survey touching upon the health, employment and occupational safety histories of Hispanic/Latino immigrants in an American city that has recently experienced explosive growth in the size of its immigrant community. The qualitative analysis of focus groups of Hispanic/Latino recent immigrants to both a traditional and a nontraditional settlement area, comparing their respective experiences and perceptions of occupational safety and health.
Education; Training; Racial-factors; Injury-prevention; Accident-prevention
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Work Environment and Workforce: Special Populations; Construction
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7th Conference of the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology: Proceedings. 8 - 10 November, 2006, Dublin, Ireland
Page last reviewed: May 11, 2023
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division