This worker engaged project characterizes injury and illness experiences among immigrant Latino forest services workers in relation to workplace risk factors and outcomes in medical treatment, recovery/return-to-work, and safety mitigation. The workforce 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. The complex nature of this work, injury experience and post-injury outcomes will be explored through injury case studies and developed into personal narrative educational modules for worker safety training. Workers in the forestry services industry, or "forest workers", are exposed to inherently high-risk tasks and conditions. 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 2 to 3 times the rates of the average US worker, and fatality rates are 9 times as high. We propose to build on our previous pilot studies, which established a baseline of information on occupational risk factors, injuries, and illnesses among immigrant, Spanish-speaking forest workers in Oregon and Washington. This three year study will use an engaged process based on participatory action research to assure the research is sensitive to worker and employer needs and leads to actionable results. It will investigate the relationships between hazardous working conditions, associated occupational injuries and illnesses, and post-injury health outcomes, including how worker fears of retaliation influence workers'attempts to improve workplace safety and health. Additionally, new print and digital educational resources utilizing narrative storytelling will be developed with Northwest Forest Worker Center's (NFWC) established promotora (community health worker) program and piloted in employer safety training. This proposed research-to-practice project addresses both an underserved workforce in high-risk forestry services and a uniquely vulnerable population. Our research and community partners are positioned to address this complex workforce issue and develop evidence-based safety and health programs. Moreover, this project directly addresses multiple goals delineated by CDC-NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) for Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing.
This worker engaged project characterizes the injury and illness experience of Latino, immigrant, and forestry services workers using a case study approach. Personal narratives and educational modules will be developed with a community health worker program and piloted in community and employer safety training.