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 intending 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 a 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 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.
Partners and Advisories:
Northwest Forest Worker Center
UC Berkeley, Labor Occupational Health Program
Lomakatsi Restoration Project
PNASH Northwest Forest Workers Safety Page
Carl Wilmsen, A. Butch de Castro, Diane Bush & Marcy J. Harrington (2019) System Failure: Work Organization and Injury Outcomes among Latino Forest Workers, Journal of Agromedicine, DOI: 10.1080/1059924X.2019.1567421
Pilot: Occupational Safety and Health of Forest Workers