Health and safety challenges associated with immigrant dairy workers

Abstract

Faced with increasing industrialization, high demands on production, and decreasing domestic participation in the labor force, dairy producers are employing an immigrant workforce to help meet operational demands. There is little data regarding the number of immigrant workers in the dairy industry, but the trend of hiring immigrant workers in some of the world’s highest producing countries is increasing. There are many challenges associated with managing immigrant workers includinghow to effectively train this workforce about safe and efficient work methods. Methods: Ethnographic methods from the anthropology field served as the primary tool to identify barriers and facilitators of safe work practices in large-herd dairy operations in the United States. Following the weeklong emersion by the research anthropologist at a selected dairy, focus groups were organized at three large-herd dairies. All focus group conversations were tape recorded, transcribed and translated into English. The focus group transcripts were coded for specific themes related to issues that participants felt were barriers or facilitators of worker health and safety. Results: Twenty-two Latino workers 18 to 58 years of age participated in the three focus groups conducted at one Colorado and two South Dakota dairies. Six major themes relating to barriers and facilitators of worker health and safety were identified and included: communication, integration owner and worker cultures, work organization, leadership, support for animal health, and attention to safety culture within the organization. Conclusions: Although not often considered by agricultural engineers, an anthropological perspective to challenges involving an immigrant workforce may assist with improved work methods and safe work practices. Through this approach, agricultural engineers may better understand the cultural challenges and complexities facing the dairy industry. Successful integration of immigrant workers relies not only on cultural awareness but also the ability to integrate cultural knowledge, beliefs, values, and traditions into management and work practices.

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Published
2013-09-08
Keywords:
immigrant, safety, anthropologic, ergonomics, dairy, workers
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How to Cite
Rosecrance, J., Tellechea, T., Menger, L., Gilkey, D., & Roman-Muniz, N. (2013). Health and safety challenges associated with immigrant dairy workers. Journal of Agricultural Engineering, 44(2s). https://doi.org/10.4081/jae.2013.371