Archive for the ‘Health & Safety’ Category

NIOSH Blog on of immigrant worker safety and health

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

This blog published by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health is worth visiting.

immigrant carwashers in Los Angeles

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Justice for Los Angeles carwash workers – this campaign has its own website here.
The campaign, part of CLEAN, confronts these labor problems of carewashers:
Carwashes routinely violate basic employment laws like those requiring workers be permitted to take rest breaks or have access to shade and clean drinking water.
* Workers frequently work 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, often with no overtime pay.
* Workers are often paid less than the legal minimum wage, sometimes earning as little as $30-$40 per day ($3-$4/ hour) or working for tips alone.
* Carwash workers are subject to health and safety hazards such as constant exposure to water and to dangerous chemicals without protective gear.
* Workers in the industry have reported kidney damage, respiratory problems and nerve damage due to their exposure to these hazards.

Farm worker rights: time to set right?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A large number of farm workers in American are immigrants. (The Agjobs program, part of the discarded immigration reform effort of 2007, was to address immigrant farm workers mainly in California.) I have read that over half of farm workers in California are illegal immigrants. An editorial in the New York Times addresses the gap in labor protections for these workers – a gap which has been there since the 1930s, when federal labor protections were created. In my field of workers compensation, many states still do not have their workers comp systems cover farm workers.
The editorial:
Farm Workers’ Rights, 70 Years Overdue
Published: April 5, 2009
It is more than bank failures and rising unemployment that give these troubled times echoes of the 1930s. An unfinished labor battle from the New Deal is being waged again.
The goal is to win basic rights that farm and domestic workers were denied more than 70 years ago, when the Roosevelt administration won major reforms protecting other workers in areas like overtime and disability pay, days of rest and union organizing.
That inequality is a perverse holdover from the Jim Crow era. Segregationist Southern Democrats in Congress could not abide giving African-Americans, who then made up most of the farm and domestic labor force, an equal footing in the workplace with whites. President Roosevelt’s compromise simply wrote workers in those industries out of the New Deal.


Occupational risks of Seattle day laborers are very high

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

A study published this summer in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine reported on interviews of day laborers in Seattle. The authors estimated that the annual rate of work injuries was 31%,or 31 per 100 workers an extraordinarily high rate comparable to roughly 10% for relatively high risk conventional employment such as construction.
The abstract of the article:
Occupational health and safety experience of day laborers in Seattle, WA
Noah S. Seixas, PhD, CIH *, Hillary Blecker, MPH, Janice Camp, MS, MN, Rick Neitzel, MS
Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
email: Noah S. Seixas (
American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 51:399-406, 2008
*Correspondence to Noah S. Seixas, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington, 4225 Roosevelt Way, NE, Seattle, WA 98105-6099.
Background: Day Labor is a growing part of the informal economy in the US, and in Seattle, and may entail a high risk of injury and illness at work.
Methods: We surveyed 180-day laborers, at two worker centers and an unregulated Street location concerning their job-specific exposures and injury experience.
Results: Exposures to both health and safety hazards were common at all three sites. After controlling for type of work, immigrant workers were 1.5-2 times more likely than non-immigrant day laborers to report exposure to hazardous conditions. Among the 180 participants 34 reported injuries were classified as recordable. We estimated an injury rate of 31 recordable injuries per 100 full time employees. The three hiring locations had differing job experiences and exposures. Those hired through worker centers had a lower risk of exposures, while the Street workers were more likely to refuse hazardous work.
Conclusions: Day laborers are exposed to numerous hazards at work, resulting in high injury rates. Multiple approaches including community based organizations which may provide some employment stability and social support for protection at work are needed to reduce occupational injury and illness risk among these vulnerable populations. Am. J. Ind. Med. 51:399-406, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Community health centers and occupational injury response

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

The federal government funds community health centers. These health centers are charged with providing occupation health services to migratory and seasonal agricultural workers, but in practices this mandate is extended to include immigrant and other uninsured, poor urban workers. Thus community health centers can be an important source of medical care work immigrant workers throughout the United States.
I once visited such a center in Boston. A drawback of this, and other centers, is that they do not bill workers compensation insurers for work injury treatment, thus closing as loop iof accountability for these injuries.
I have included below a definition of a Federally qualified health centers, and the actual language from federal legal that mandates their use for occupational health.
FQHCs must provide primary care services for all age groups. FQHCs must provide preventive health services on site or by arrangement with another provider. Other requirements that must be provided directly by an FQHC or by arrangement with another provider include: dental services, mental health and substance abuse services, transportation services necessary for adequate patient care, hospital and specialty care.
Go here for a Frequently Asked Questions page on these centers.
TITLE 42 CHAPTER 6A SUBCHAPTER II Part D subpart i § 254b
§ 254b. Health centers
(D) in the case of health centers receiving grants under subsection (g) of this section, special occupation-related health services for migratory and seasonal agricultural workers, including—
(i) screening for and control of infectious diseases, including parasitic diseases; and
(ii) injury prevention programs, including prevention of exposure to unsafe levels of agricultural chemicals including pesticides

High death rate among Hispanic workers

Friday, July 25th, 2008

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease control for June 6, 2008, reported that Hispanic workers experience higher death work-related rates than other workers. The MMWR wrote:
Work-related injury deaths among Hispanic workers during 1992–2006 totaled 11,303 (Figure 1), approximately 13% of all U.S. work-related injury deaths during that period. Median age of Hispanic decedents was 35 years, compared with a median age of 42 years for all workers. Approximately 95% of Hispanic decedents were male. The annual work-related injury death rate for Hispanic workers exceeded the rate for all U.S. workers every year during 1992–2006, with the exception of 1995. In 2006, the work-related injury death rate for Hispanic workers was 5.0 per 100,000 Hispanic workers, compared with rates of 4.0 for all workers, 4.0 for non-Hispanic white workers, and 3.7 for non-Hispanic black workers. During 2003–2006, the work-related injury death rate for foreign-born Hispanic workers was 5.9, compared with a rate of 3.5 for U.S.-born Hispanic workers.
On March 16, 2005, I posted a column answering this question with respect to construction-related deaths, and repost it here:
10 Threads of Huerta’s Shroud
Why are Hispanic workers dying on the job at a rate much higher than other workers? On average, every calendar day marks another Hispanic work-related death that confirms this pattern. There are, it turns out, a crowd of culprits.
In 2002, an 18-year-old construction worker, Carlos Huerta, was building low income housing in North Carolina, when he fell to his death from a platform atop the raised prongs of a forklift. The circumstances of Huerta’s death reveal what is killing these workers at a higher rate.
One, there are more and more Hispanic workers here. Who are these men? A study published in 2004 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine reported that most Hispanic construction workers were born outside the United States; one-third have been here for less than three years, and one-third speak Spanish only. They are 10 times more likely to have left school before the 9th grade. Two, Hispanic workers have been switching from agricultural to construction work for higher pay and to avoid having to travel to the harvests. Some bring to construction an independent mindset. That might work when it comes to working on the farm. But it’s not so desirable when it comes to construction.
Three, Hispanic construction workers are younger, hence less work-experienced. The disparity in construction death rates between Hispanics and non-Hispanics is at its highest in these green years-about double. The disparity declines with age but never disappears.


Agriprocessors’ worker safety record

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

The Des Moines Register has been investigating the safety record at Agriprocessors in Postville IA and is not happy with what it found. For instance:
“Agriprocessors’ treatment of its workers – and state regulators’ treatment of the company – have been a source of controversy since May 12, when 389 workers were detained by federal agents in the nation’s largest immigration raid.
A Des Moines Register review of state records indicates that health and safety violations at Agriprocessors rarely result in large fines, although injuries are commonplace there.
The records show that:
• Company officials have repeatedly refused to let state inspectors inside the plant without first obtaining a court warrant. In one incident, inspectors had to go to the courthouse in Waukon and obtain the document. By then, it was too late to return and make the inspection, so the state officials had to book a hotel room and spend the night. They entered the plant the next day, but the delay resulted in company officials getting 24 hours’ notice of a planned inspection.
– Unsigned workplace-safety complaints are typically investigated by the state via telephone or fax, rather than by visiting the plant. In one case, inspectors drove to the Postville plant and were denied entry. After realizing the complaint was unsigned, the inspectors drove back to Des Moines without entering the plant.
• Fines for workplace safety violations in Iowa are typically cut by 25 percent to 75 percent from the amounts first proposed. In 2005, after the three amputation injuries at Agriprocessors, a state worker forgot to call company executives for a scheduled telephone conference about a proposed $10,000 fine. After a 45-minute delay, the official told company executives their time was worth a reduction in the fine, and he cut the penalty to $7,500.
• Company executives have failed to give workers protective gear to do certain jobs. For years, the plant didn’t provide protective clothing to employees who worked with corrosive chemicals. Protective jackets, pants and boots were available, but they were treated by Agriprocessors as personal clothing that had to be purchased from the plant.”
The article in full:
Agriprocessors escapes big fines for violations
By CLARK KAUFFMAN • • © 2008, Des Moines Register and Tribune Company • July 6, 2008
Carlos Torrez was in the middle of a 60-hour workweek at the Agriprocessors Inc. meat-processing plant in Postville when the mechanical saw he was using to separate chicken parts severed one of his fingers.


Postville, IA: nogoodnik employer

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

On May 12 ICE raided the Agriproccessors plant in Postville, IA, said to be with its 1,000 odd employees the largest kosher meat processing facility in the world. ICE arrested 389 workers for illegal status. This was heralded as the largest ICE raid ever. As it happened, The state of Iowa Workforce Development’s labor division had fined Agriprocessors $182,000 in October, 2007, for safety violations. In May of this year it reduced the fines to $42,750 as part of a negotiated settlement under which the company promises to remedy its practices. One of the key safety problems was mishandling of chemicals.
According to the Des Moines Register, the owner, New York City based Aaron Rubashkin, is a prime example of an employer who resists any form of accountability. It reported (quote follows):
Aaron Rubashkin blamed his troubles partly on the media, which he compared to the state-run news outlets he saw before he emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1953. He referred to American reporters as ‘the lynching press,’ and he dismissed their stories. ‘Everything is a lie,’ he said.
Rubashkin’s statements were criticized Wednesday by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which has tried to organize the Postville plant.
‘We hope that authorities in Iowa, at the federal level and at the kosher certifying agencies, take notice of this company’s total unwillingness to accept responsibility for its actions,’ union spokesman Scott Frotman said in a prepared statement.
‘There is not a slaughterhouse in the country with a more reprehensible record of health and safety violations,’ Frotman said. ‘The fact that the Rubashkins are now on record accusing state and federal investigators of lying, and the fact that they would say the same thing about their own workers, shows just how morally bankrupt the management of this company is, and how important it is for Agriprocessors to be thoroughly investigated.’

Follow up on House of Raeford case

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

This is the North Carolina – headquartered poultry processing firm which mistreated its injured workers and faked its safety reports. I have posted on this before. I do not know what share of its workforce are immigrants but I expect that a minority or a majority are. This kind of abuse is more easily accomplished with immigrant workers who are uninformed and/or intimidated. the North Carolina Governor is asking for more funds for safety enforcement. It sounds like the state safety regulators are dragging their feet. Thanks to Workcompcentral (subscription required), and to the Charlotte Observer for running the expose.
the Workcompcentral story in full:
Easley Requests More than $1 Million For Poultry Crackdown: Top [05/15/08]
North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has included more than $1 million in his 2008 budget to crack down on practices in the poultry industry that include underreporting of crippling injuries and forcing severely injured employees back to work.
Responding to a series of newspaper reports that began running in The Charlotte Observer last year, Easley released a $12.5 billion budget this week that includes $720,000 to replace inspectors and others laid off at the North Carolina Department of Labor because of funding cuts ordered by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Easley’s proposal calls for spending another $350,000 to hire occupational health nurses and two industrial hygienists for the North Carolina Division of Public Health.
“With the nature of these jobs, poultry plants would be the major focus,” Seth Effron, Easley’s deputy press secretary, said Wednesday. “He feels very strongly that all workers ought to be treated decently and humanely. There clearly needs to be a way to make sure that happens.”
The Observer reported that some poultry plants earned prize-winning safety records by forcing injured workers to return to work quickly enough to avoid the recording of “lost-time” accidents.


how illegal farm workers from Mexico get healthcare

Monday, May 12th, 2008

The New York Times reports how illegal farm workers obtain medical care for work and non work related conditions under the radar, shying away from clinics where they may be caught and favoring traditional cures. “They may visit a clinic or hospital if they are severely ill. But for many illegal immigrants, particularly indigenous Mexican groups like the Mixtecs, much of their health care is provided by a parallel system of spiritual healers, home remedies and self-medication…. the lack of access to conventional care reinforced a culture of self-medication..”
The story in full:
May 10, 2008
Illegal Farm Workers Get Health Care in Shadows
MADERA, Calif. — The curandera is weary from work. Three, four, five times a day, the immigrant farm workers knock on her apartment door, begging her to cure their ailments.
They complain of indigestion, of rashes, of post-traumatic panic attacks. Then there are the house calls that compel her to crate up her potions and herbs and drive across town, often after midnight, to escape the notice of immigration police.
“I’ve done so many cures that I’m exhausted; it gives me no time to rest,” said Herminia L. Arenas, 55, the curandera, or traditional healer, who has practiced in this Central Valley town since migrating 14 years ago from Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. “I want to retire, but I feel like I was sent here to help these people.”
The people need help because they are in the United States illegally and because they are poor. Few have health insurance, but the backbreaking nature of their work, along with the toxicity of American poverty, insure that many are ailing.