Emma Puka-Beals, Linn Jennings,

Anna Sillers, Shicong Li


Immigrants in the United States

OSH Act protects all, “"[People] engaged in a business affecting commerce who has employees, but does not include the United States or any state or political subdivision of a State." (Environmental and Safety Online, 2010). However, immigrants in the United States are not always covered under the act, and there are between 3.6 million and 6 million illegal immigrants living in the United States.

There are two main reasons why immigrants are not protected under the OSH Act. First, the act does not cover farm workers who work on farms that have fewer than ten employees, which means that the employers does not have to adhere to the more strict occupational health standards that most other employers follow. The farm workers on small farms are not protected, which means that many of the farmers may be exposed to toxins or pesticides without knowing how dangerous they are to their health (OSH Act, 1970).

The second problem is that even though many immigrants in the United States are formally protected under the OASH Act, they are usually not aware of the employee rights and occupational standards, so they do not submit complaints even if they are being exploited. In addition, illegal immigrants cannot submit complaints without potentially exposing their illegal status (Sakala, C., 1987).
Many industries in the Western States in the United States depend on immigrant labor (Plasencia, K., 2009). Many of the immigrants that come to the United States are not fluent in English and many have little formal education. Research released by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that about 32% of foreign-born adults in the United States do not have a high school diploma (Grieco, E., 2004)

Many of the immigrants are hired to do agricultural and landscape work, to work in meatpacking factories and slaughterhouses, and to work in construction. Agricultural jobs are risky since the workers come into contact with high concentrations of pesticides (Busby, A. et al., 2009). Many of these industries are dangerous to begin with, and when the workers are undocumented the employers do not have to adhere to the same standards for those workers since the undocumented workers cannot report the employer without risking deportation. The employers can exploit the immigrants even more, which increases the occupational risks.

In an article by Oprenius (2009), he writes based on information released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that the number of “work-related fatalities among foreign-born Hispanic workers rose between 1992 and 2006” (Oprenius, P. et al., 2009, 535) One of the primary reasons for the increased number is due to the increase in immigration, and since there are fewer jobs available the immigrants are more likely to choose higher risk jobs (Oprenius, P. et al., 2009).

Additional Quotes:

1. National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety was in April of 2010, and the goal of the summit was to address the current occupational risks associated with jobs that have a high percentage of Latino Americans.

The Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said, "Every day in this country, more than 14  workers lose their lives in preventable workplace incidents - close to 100 every week. The Latino community is also touched, losing 14 workers every week."


2. "Hispanics or Latinos accounted for a disproportionate number of workplace fatalities in 2000, 13.8 percent, compared with their proportion of employment, which was 10.7 percent. This appears to be largely due to the fact that Hispanics or Latinos are disproportionately employed in the more dangerous industries. For example, the  construction industry accounts for about 7 percent of all employment, but 20 percent of fatalities. Hispanics or Latinos comprise almost 15 percent of construction employment, well above their representation in the workforce overall."





Busby, A.J. and G. Echstein. “Organophosphates, friend and foe: the promise of medical monitoring for farm workers and their families.” UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy (2009).

Environmental and Safety Online. “EHSO Summary of OSHA Regulations.” (2010) <http://www.ehso.com/oshaoverview.php#who>.

Grieco, E. “Educational Attainment of the Foreign Born in the United States.” Migration Policy Institute (2004).

Oprenius, P.M., M. Zavodny. “Do immigrants work in riskier jobs?” Demography (2009) 46:535-551.

OSH Act. “Historical Labor.” United States Department of Labor (1970).

Plasencia, K., “Mexican Migrant Workers: Nuisance or Necessity?” Hub Pages, 2009. <http://hubpages.com/hub/Mexican-Migrant-Workers-Nuisance-or-Necessity>.

Sakala, C. “Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers in the United States: A Review of Health Hazards, Status, and Policy.” International Migration Review (1987) 21: 659-687.