Immigrant Dairy Workers' Perceptions of Health and Safety on the Farm in America's Heartland

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Abstract

Background

Dairy farming is dangerous. Yearly, farms grow fewer and larger by employing immigrant workers, who have limited industrial agriculture experience and safety and health training.

Methods

We examined results of five focus groups with 37 Hispanic, immigrant dairy workers. Analysis followed a grounded theory approach and employed ATLAS.ti.

Results

Reported injury experience affirmed the hazardous nature of dairy. Some workers received appropriate worker compensation benefits, whereas others were instructed to deny work-relatedness. Some employers covered medical injury costs out-of-pocket, whereas others did not. Cows were a major injury source. Pressure to work and weather were noted as injury risk factors. Worker compensation was poorly understood, and immigration status and fear of deportation influenced injury and hazard reporting.

Conclusion

Injury management practices range from benevolent to threatening. Workers compensation is poorly understood and undocumented status is an occupational hazard. We underscore the need for further research and immigration policy change. Am. J. Ind. Med. 59:227–235, 2016. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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