Forest Workers’ Health and Safety

forest

Forest workers face many hazards on the job including falling branches, chain saw injuries, falls while working on slippery, uneven terrain, heat stress, exposure to the cold and wet weather, exposure to gasoline (direct skin contact with the liquid as well as inhalation of the fumes), musculoskeletal disorders due to carrying heavy loads for long hours, vehicular accidents during transportation to and from the work site; forestry work is recognized as one of the most dangerous jobs.

Although a few contractors provide extensive safety training to their workers, most workers receive no training. Moreover, most workers do not know their rights and are unaware of the laws entitling them to a safe work place and to medical care if they are injured. Many workers tell of delaying treatment for injuries on the job, and of tremendous difficulties in navigating the workers’ compensation system. This is compounded by their visa status. If they stay in the US to follow up on workers’ compensation or complaints against their employer they may violate their visa; if they do not stay their case may be forgotten.

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

(NIOSH 2014-2017) The forestry services 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 will examine how working conditions for Latino immigrant forest workers contribute to work-related injuries and illnesses as well as how worker fears of retaliation influence workers’ attempts to improve workplace safety and health. The project builds on earlier work done by the Northwest Forest Worker Center (NFWC—at that time called the Alliance of Forest Workers and Harvesters) and LOHP from 2008-2012—see below. Led by the University of Washington’s Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (PNASH) and NFCW, in partnership with LOHP and the Lomakatsi Restoration Project, the project will assess injury and health risks for Latino immigrant forest service workers and create story-telling-based education and prevention materials. These resources will draw on true stories told by workers’ peers in order to develop safety and health messages that are relevant, relatable, and culturally appropriate. These materials will be designed for use by community health workers as well as by supervisors in work-based settings and will be developed, piloted, and evaluated by the project team.

Faculty Partners: Butch de Castro and Victoria Breckwich Vasquez, University of Washington

 

Promotora Program for Forest Workers

Sí, Se: Salud Y Seguridad en el Trabajo

(NIOSH, OSHA 2010-2012) In partnership with the Northwest Forest Worker Center, LOHP developed materials and provided training and support for wives of forest workers in Southern Oregon to become promotoras to the forest worker community. During the project period, promotoras provided training to hundreds of forest workers. Evaluation results showed that through this promotora program, community capacity to address working conditions increased through 1) increased leadership and community access to information and resources; and 2) increased worker awareness of workplace health and safety rights and resources. While fear of retaliation remains a barrier to workers taking action, the promotoras supported several workers in addressing specific workplace issues. The promotoras continue to work with the NFWC.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Diane Bush
dbush@berkeley.edu