The occupational health and safety vulnerability of recent immigrants accessing settlement services

A. Morgan Lay, Agnieszka Kosny, Anjana Aery, Karl Flecker, Peter M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To compare occupational health and safety (OHS) vulnerability of recent Canadian immigrants and workers born in Canada. Methods: Recent immigrants (n = 195) were recruited at four settlement agencies in Southern Ontario, and non-immigrants in Ontario (n = 1030) were contacted by phone and email by a third-party survey provider. The questionnaire measured OHS vulnerability using a 27-item measure and collected sociodemographic and workplace information. Responses were used to evaluate one overall and three specific (policy and procedure, awareness, and empowerment) measures of OHS vulnerability. Log-binomial models compared the overall and policy and procedure-, awareness- and empowerment-related vulnerability of recent immigrants to non-immigrant workers. Models were adjusted for demographic and workplace characteristics. Results: New immigrants experience statistically elevated levels of overall (adjusted risk ratio [ARR] = 1.60, 95% CI 1.23–2.07) and empowerment-related vulnerability (ARR = 1.54, 95% CI 1.09–2.17). Compared to workers born in Canada, immigrants also report elevated levels of policy and procedure vulnerability (ARR = 1.37, 95% CI 0.98–1.92), although this estimate did not meet traditional criteria for statistical significance. Conclusions: This study uses a novel multi-dimensional measure to identify how differences in workplace context place recent immigrant workers at increased risk of work-related injury or illness. Recent immigrant workers experience increased risk of OHS vulnerability. In particular, this vulnerability results from exposure to hazards in combination with inadequate levels of empowerment to protect themselves in the workplace. Policy-makers, advocates, and employers should implement strategies that not only build workplaces where occupational hazards are minimized but also ensure immigrant workers are empowered to act on their workplace rights and engaged to improve workplace safety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-311
Number of pages9
JournalCanadian Journal of Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Emigrants and immigrants
  • Occupational health
  • Vulnerable populations
  • Worker

Cite this