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Occupational Health and Safety Vulnerability of Recent Immigrants and Refugees

Institute for Work & Health, 481 University Ave., Suite 800, Toronto, ON M5G 2E9, Canada
Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, 155 College Street, 6th floor, Toronto, ON M5T 3M7, Canada
Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, 553 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, VIC 3004, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(9), 2004;
Received: 23 July 2018 / Revised: 10 September 2018 / Accepted: 12 September 2018 / Published: 14 September 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Migration, Work and Health)
PDF [326 KB, uploaded 14 September 2018]


Recent immigrants and refugees have higher rates of work-related injuries and illnesses compared to Canadian-born workers. As a result, they are often labelled as vulnerable workers. This study explored the factors that contribute to occupational health and safety (OHS) vulnerability of recent immigrants and refugees with a focus on modifiable factors such as exposure to hazards and access to workplace protections, awareness of OHS and worker rights, and empowerment to act on those rights. Eighteen focus groups were conducted with 110 recent immigrants and refugees about their experiences looking for work and in their first jobs in Canada. A thematic content analysis was used to organize the data and to identify and report themes. The jobs described by participants typically involved poor working conditions and exposure to hazards without adequate workplace protections. Most participants had limited knowledge of OHS and employment rights and tended to not voice safety concerns to employers. Understanding OHS vulnerability from the lens of workplace context can help identify modifiable conditions that affect the risk of injury and illness among recent immigrants and refugees. Safe work integration depends on providing these workers with information about their rights, adequate job training, and opportunities for participating in injury prevention. View Full-Text
Keywords: occupational health and safety vulnerability; immigrants; employment; qualitative occupational health and safety vulnerability; immigrants; employment; qualitative
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Yanar, B.; Kosny, A.; Smith, P.M. Occupational Health and Safety Vulnerability of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 2004.

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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health EISSN 1660-4601 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
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