Online Program

Examining barriers and facilitators to protecting the health and safety of Latino construction workers post-Hurricane Sandy

Monday, November 2, 2015

Isabel Cuervo, PhD, Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment, Queens College, CUNY, Flushing, NY
Anna Tilles, MS, The Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment, Queens College, Flushing, NY
Diego Palaguachi, Make The Road New York, Make The Road New York, Jackson Heights, NY
Steven Markowitz, MD, DrPH, The Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment, Queens College, Flushing, NY
Sherry Baron, MD, MPH, The Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment, Queens College, Flushing, NY
Background: Safe workplaces are, even under the usual predictable circumstances, difficult to achieve, and disasters greatly magnify these difficulties. Immigrant workers, especially “day laborers,” add another layer to post-disaster complexities and challenges.

Methods: This qualitative study is part of a larger community-based participatory mixed methods project that explored the workplace hazards experienced by Latino construction laborers and cleaners involved in reconstruction following Hurricane Sandy. Participants of both genders were drawn from an intervention program that provided training and personal protective equipment (PPE). Six focus groups were conducted in Spanish in and near NYC. Academic and community-based researchers analyzed data collaboratively.

Results: Findings reveal that training combined with providing workers their own PPE is more effective than training alone in reinforcing the importance of PPE and therefore, increasing its use. However, one occasional but significant barrier to using PPE was that workers were unable to anticipate which PPE to bring to worksites because conditions are often unpredictable and can quickly change. Women, more than men, tended to openly discuss workplace injustices related to gender, ethnicity, and physical abilities.

Discussion: Immigrant construction laborers work in uncertain and variable post-disaster settings that exacerbate documented risks to health and safety. While providing training is important, this study demonstrates the importance of combining training with provision of PPE. Nonetheless, contingent work also poses challenges in most effectively using PPE even when provided. Health impacts to female laborers doing post disaster cleanup is understudied and further attention to their experience of workplace injustices is needed.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Environmental health sciences
Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Describe the barriers and facilitators to the health and safety of immigrant Latino construction laborers in a post-disaster setting garnered through a qualitative community-based research project.

Keyword(s): Immigrant Health, Disasters

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a Research Associate at the Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment at Queens College, which has a focus on conducting studies with Latino immigrant populations such as those included in this study. In this role, I led the qualitative data analysis team. I have a PhD in Environmental Psychology, which provided me the advanced skills necessary to lead the project. My prior research was a qualitative study with Spanish speaking participants.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.