Occupational health and safety vulnerability of recent immigrants and refugees

Basak Yanar, Agnieszka Kosny, Peter M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2004
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sep 2018


  • Employment
  • Immigrants
  • Occupational health and safety vulnerability
  • Qualitative

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