Fishing Industry Filipino Migrant and Immigrant Work in the Subarctic

This pilot project will assess risk factors for occupational illness and injury due to physically demanding work and unpredictable working conditions among Dutch Harbor/Unalaska's Filipino migrant fishing workers. Filipino migrant and immigrants are the dominant racial/ethnic workforce in fish processing in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, Alaska, composing 28% of the total resident population.
In the Dutch Harbor community of Alaska, 90% of the jobs are in commercial fishing. Of the over 4,000 residents, Filipinos represent 28% of the community. This study explored the influence of the unique Alaskan environmental conditions on occupational health and safety risks, work performance and the health behaviors of Filipino workers. The purpose of this study was to explore the health behaviors and conditions of Filipino fish processing workers and how unique environmental conditions influence occupational health and safety risks in the Alaskan fishing setting.
Thirty in-depth interviews were conducted among Filipinos working in fish processing in two of the largest fishing industries stationed in the Dutch Harbor area. Almost all of the interviews were conducted in Filipino (Tagalog). The average length of each interview was about 45 minutes. Respondents indicated that cold weather interferes with the workers'
job performance, increasing their risk for injury and illness. Concurrently, respondents characterized the commonly experienced loneliness and boredom that is attributed to the community’s isolation and rurality. It was reported that this leads to more high-risk behaviors. Other non-environmental factors affecting worker health include concerns with roommates and supervisors as well as culture-specific practices. Findings suggest the importance of job rotation to avoid long exposures to cold temperatures, the value of having designated individuals tasked with informing workers about company and community resources that promote healthy lifestyles, and the possible utility of a joint worker-management safety committee. The information gathered in the project forms the basis of future studies and interventions with migrant workers and immigrants in commercial fishing and fish processing communities. Accordingly, this project helps to inform active and future projects at the NIOSH Alaska Station. Results and recommendations of the study were shared with the occupational safety and health team of the company where the data was collected.
Principal Investigator: Gabriel Garcia, PhD, MA, MPH
Associate Professor, Department of Health Sciences
University of Alaska at Anchorage
PNASH Pilot 2013-2014
Partners and Advisories
Filipino community of Dutch Harbor/Unalaska
Garcia GM, de Castro B. Working Conditions, Occupational Injuries, and Health Among Filipino Fish Processing Workers in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Workplace Health Saf. 2017 May;65(5):219-226. doi: 10.1177/2165079916665396. Epub 2016 Oct 11. PubMed PMID: 27729501; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5570591.
Garcia GM. Understanding the Relationship Between Working Conditions, Occupational Injuries, and Chronic Disease
Among Seasonal Filipino Fish Processing Workers in Dutch Harbor, AK. 2015 Manuscript. Department of Health Sciences University of Alaska at Anchorage.