Migration, Work, Health and Justice: Occupational Safety and Health Among Immigrant Workers in Somerville, MA.
Abstract: Abstract In
this community based participatory research on immigrant workers in Somerville, a range
of methods was used to understand the occupational health risks incurred by immigrants
in Somerville, MA. Our project represented a healthy mix of community initiatives and
research. The project was very successful in initiating a number of meaningful community
outreach efforts throug... read moreh the Teen Educators, the administration of community
occupational health fairs and the establishment of Vida Verde Co-Op. The study employed
mixed methods which included - a survey (N=405) of respondents who identified themselves
as immigrant workers either living or working in Somerville, MA from 2006-2009, focus
groups with immigrant workers (N= 48), the performance of annual key informant
interviews (N = 50) and in-depth interviews with selected recent immigrant women workers
(N = 8). The results show that by partnering with five community organizations, each
with access to different ethnic groups, our project benefitted greatly from the level of
trust, interaction and effective communication enjoyed by these organizations. We found
that ethnicity, years in the US, English proficiency, age, occupational classification
and health insurance were better predictors for occupational health risks compared to
gender, work and health and safety training, knowledge of Massachusetts Workers'
Compensation Law and access to doctors in this study. Construction workers reported
significantly higher health problems due to work and injuries at work, and lower access
to occupational health services than cashiers and the other low income jobs explored in
this study. Cleaners reported significantly lower access to work training, health and
safety training and knowledge of workers compensation than cashiers and factory workers
reported significantly lower work training than cashiers in this study. In our
interviews with recent immigrant women engaged in low skill, unstable employment, we
found that few employment choices were available. Those that were present were
characterized by poor working conditions which were often conducive to abuse and worker
rights violations. A number of hazardous exposures and corresponding health effects were
noted in these jobs. These occupations did not benefit from adequate work safety
measures and support systems which likely affected the physical and psychological health
of these workers. The development of protective policies specific to informal labor
markets are essential, as is the enforcement and the implementation of safety
interventions to improve the quality of work and life for these
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2011.
Submitted to the Dept. of Civil Engineering.
Advisor: David Gute.
Committee: Doug Brugge, Mark Woodin, and Raymond Hyatt.
Keyword: Environmental health.read less