Safety and Health of Latino Immigrant Forestry Services Workers in the Pacific Northwest

Principal Investigator: Butch de Castro, PhD, MSN/MPH
Adjunct Professor, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences
University of Washington
 
NIOSH 2014-2017
 

The forest service workforce in the Pacific Northwest is largely immigrant, low-literate and Spanish-speaking with unique vulnerabilities due to a lack of skills and safety training, occupational immobility, remote work locations, and small contractor employment. These workers, distinct from the logging workforce, do the remote reforestation, rehabilitation and forest thinning/cutting, and all the other tasks necessary in tending America’s forests. Job-related injury and illness rates among these workers are two to three times the rates of the average US worker, and fatality rates are nine times as high.

This research-to-practice project examined how working conditions for Latino immigrant forest workers contributed to work-related injuries and illnesses, and how worker fears of retaliation influence workers’ attempts to improve workplace safety and health. Previous PNASH funded research conducted by the National Forest Worker Clinic demonstrated a critical need for safety and health training among immigrant forest workers. In partnership with the Northwest Forest Worker Center, the University of California Berkeley Labor Occupational Health Program, and the Lomakatsi Restoration Project, the experiences and injury and health risks of Latino immigrant forest service workers were assessed to inform the development of a story-telling-based education and prevention curriculum. To accomplish this, the team used participatory model and mixed methods study design to characterize working conditions, injury and illness experiences, safety mitigation efforts employer retaliation, and recover/return-to-work times.

The resources produced draw on true stories told by workers' peers in order to develop safety and health messages that are relevant, relatable, and culturally appropriate. Onsite employer and supervisor "Safety Talk" training was also produced to address the gap in safety training material for forestry managers. A safety and health training advocacy initiative called Sí Sé: Salud y Seguridad en el Trabajo (Yes, I Know: Health and Safety on the Job) was also developed alongside this work. The overall goals of these efforts were to facilitate empowerment-building among a community of underserved, highly vulnerable workers and forest services contractors, to seek workplace and empowerment improvements.

Partnerships and Advisories
Northwest Forest Worker Center

UC Berkeley, Labor Occupational Health  Program

Lomakatsi Restoration Project

Projects
Pilot: Occupational Safety and Health of Forest Workers

Resources
PNASH Northwest Forest Workers Safety Page

Forest Worker Safety Talks / Pláticas sobre seguridad para los trabajadores forestales

Reality Tales Videos: Injuries in the Woods / Videos historias reales: Lesiones en los bosque
 

Year: 
2014 to 2017