Highly Educated Immigrant Workers’ Perspectives of Occupational Health and Safety and Work Conditions That Challenge Work Safety
1.1. OHS and Immigrant Workers
1.2. OHS Legislation in Alberta
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Research Design and Data Collection
2.2. Data Analysis
3.1. Socio-Demographics of Participants
3.2. Comprehension of OHS
OHS is knowing what to do in the event of a work-related accident, it is how to probably to keep yourself from getting hurt or injured or anything like that.(IN1)
That is when the company will be providing you with information to ensure your own safety and also your colleagues′ safety in the work place … And then of course they provide you with information, as to what you are going to wear while doing your work.(II3) (injured participant)
It (OHS) is about your life, it is about your health and it is your responsibility to take care of that, you have to be careful! You cannot just say, “oh, let’s do it” (sign of rush work, careless work). So, you have to be calm down, relax and have to do things carefully, slowly, and safely. You cannot rush, nobody can push you. If you feel somebody is pushing you and if it can be dangerous for you, just stop.(II4)
Safety, to me it’s more like mental, psychological safety, like others don’t abuse me verbally, that they don’t isolate me because I’m an immigrant, ignoring me and if you speak broken English and if you have an accent that you don’t have anything to offer.(IN10)
3.2.1. Acquiring OHS Knowledge
3.2.2. Participants′ Perspectives of the OHS Training They Received at Their Workplaces
During the orientation they gave us a document to study and a questionnaire to fill out, so, that was the basics of the safety training—general knowledge stuff. It was not a proper orientation to safety.(IN3)
You know, my workplace is a warehouse and it is a busy place and there are lots of machineries, and workers roam around these machineries. So definitely there are so many hazards. Giving us sheets/documents for reading and signing documents are not enough. Workers need more practical training provided by a group of professional or experienced persons, not just some documents for reading and keeping them.(IN8)
My manager might say “Oh you′re just standing there reading that stuff, why don′t you go back to your work?” I am scared I might get fired because of that.(IN6)
They tell you to be careful, but they never tell you that there is something like WCB! They are very clever! But, yeah, they may tell you if you ask them after injury. They have first aid and they will provide you when you have your hands burn or some other minor injury…. And our employers do not tell us about that [WCB] because they have also to pay money or compensation for injured workers. Reporting an injury by a worker means financial loss for a company and so employers try not to tell their workers about those things.(IN9)
I was struggling for these ten weeks. My coworkers and team manager kept saying, “don′t do this, don′t do that! Don′t you know how to prepare a salad? You know, they often laughed at me for my illiteracy on preparing food. I said—you know, I don′t know how to prepare these kinds of food. I decided to quit and told my manager “I cannot deal with this anymore.” She moved me to another department.(II8)
Sometimes I don′t understand some Canadian terms. So, if the boss is talking to me, and I did not understand the term, I usually say, “come again” or “pardon me,” and she gets irritated…If you express yourself in the way they do, then there is going to be a good relationship [with your supervisor and colleagues] … But how can I even build a good relationship with them when I cannot even express myself in the way that they understand?(IN7)
Some participants received information about safety aspects of the equipment they used only after they or a coworker sustained an injury. A participant who had learned to operate a machine from a coworker sustained two serious injuries to his arm from the machine. He observed, “They don′t tell [you] at first everything. If something happens to you, that′s when they come to you and tell you” [about safety operations, injury reporting, workers compensation]. “They just tell me about their issue” [the work they want him to do for them], “but not about my safety.”(II10)
3.3. Participants′ Awareness of Canadian Workers′ Rights and Entitlements
My coworkers, they got ill (after they performed unsafe work), and they can′t come to work the following day and they requested that they should go for a medical check up to make sure everything is all right… The company was not comfortable with the request… so they got sent home after that… I know some other guys as well that also experienced this illness but they fear “Oh maybe if I mention it, I might be sent home just like the other two guys.”… So, they try to manage the illness… instead of letting the employer know that “Oh this job is not safe.”… So, they try to protect the job over their health.(IN2)
I know the policy or labor law says that we should get a 30 min-break after 4–5 h of work, but we don′t get this practically. They don′t follow the regulation fully, I think! If we take like 30 min-break they don′t pay us. If we take a 15 min-break they pay.(IN4)
I did not really know about WCB, the procedures of reporting injury, or any worker′s rights. I think it would be great to organize some talks for new immigrants so as to let them know what is workplace related injuries. I think what is most important is that you are knowledgeable about the procedures of reporting an injury. New immigrants usually start their life here with labor jobs, not office work, so they have higher chance of getting injured.(II9)
3.4. Challenges of Facing Workplace Risks and Hazards
These workers put away their safety guards [PPE] by themselves. Sometimes I do not understand these Canadian people. They know safety rules, but they do not follow them and the manager does not say anything.(II15)
Immigrant workers are seen as less capable than the Canadian-born workers. So, by their work they have to prove that they are also capable of doing all types of work equally, and sometimes more efficiently, than the Canadian-born workers.(II6)
If you are an immigrant worker, and if you make any mistake, there is more possibility you will be noticed by the employer. But if a Canadian-born worker makes a similar mistake, he will not be brought under scrutiny. A Canadian-born worker′s mistake or fault will be overlooked. As an immigrant worker, I have to follow every rule and regulation of the workplace. I can be can be fired any time if I make a mistake.(IN11)
They don’t care about your educational qualification and experience or individual ability. There are instances where a worker comes from a poor country and has higher level of educational qualification, but another worker comes from a rich country and has no higher educational qualification and is getting better treatment in workplace.(II12)
I can say that I experienced humiliation in Canada. I am a specialist, but I am told to do jobs that do not require any qualification. At my job, only Canadian welders have rights… I felt like I was garbage who came from (country of origin). We got very good education in (country of origin). We taught Canadian journeymen how to weld properly. However, here they work as welders, but we are their helpers… there is a huge difference how the supervisors treat Canadians and us. Canadians can take a break any time and go to washroom or somewhere else, go to smoke. We were not allowed to stop work.(IN15)
4.1. Theoretical Connections
4.2. Recommendations for Practice and Policy
4.3. Limitations of the Study and Relevance beyond Alberta
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Attributes||Injured||Non Injured||Injured but Did Not Report|
|Overseas trade certificate||1|
|Number of Years in Canada|
|6 ≤ 10 years||9||5||1|
|Region of Origin|
|Central South America||3|
|Oil and Gas||5||1|
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Shankar, J.; Lai, D.; Chen, S.-P.; Turin, T.C.; Joseph, S.; Mi, E. Highly Educated Immigrant Workers’ Perspectives of Occupational Health and Safety and Work Conditions That Challenge Work Safety. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19, 8757. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19148757
Shankar J, Lai D, Chen S-P, Turin TC, Joseph S, Mi E. Highly Educated Immigrant Workers’ Perspectives of Occupational Health and Safety and Work Conditions That Challenge Work Safety. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022; 19(14):8757. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19148757Chicago/Turabian Style
Shankar, Janki, Daniel Lai, Shu-Ping Chen, Tanvir C. Turin, Shawn Joseph, and Ellen Mi. 2022. "Highly Educated Immigrant Workers’ Perspectives of Occupational Health and Safety and Work Conditions That Challenge Work Safety" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 19, no. 14: 8757. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19148757