Occupational Hazards Faced by Migrant Workers


Many people migrate to other countries is search of better pastures. What are the main occupational hazards they face?


Occupational Hazards Faced by Migrant Workers



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Occupational Hazards Faced by Migrant Workers

“The danger which is least expected soonest comes to us” is a famous quote by Voltaire. According to Schulte et al. (2019), “The changing nature of work, the workforce, and the workplace is widely recognized” (p.1). Schulte et al. (2019) also stated that “These changes, resulting from technology, globalization, shifts in demographics, and other economic and political forces, pose many potential problems for workers, employers, and society today and for the foreseeable future” (p.1). “With the goals of increasing productivity and greater incorporation of technology, the pace of work has intensified, and also the terms of employment have changed for many with nonstandard work (short-term contracts, gigs, platform work, etc.) more common’ (Schulte et al., 2019, p.1). According to Obrero et al. (2021), “Workplace accidents entail massive economic and social costs, and they affect not only individuals involved in the accidents but the society as a whole (p.1). Obrero et al. (2021) also stated that “2.3 million individuals died worldwide in 2012 as a result of workplace-related accidents, and the implied economic cost of these workplace deaths ranged from 1.8 to 6% of countries’ GDP” (p.1). “The cost of workplace accidents includes not only medical costs and insurance premiums, but also costs related to early retirement, loss of skilled staff, and absenteeism” (Obrero et al., 2021, p.1). “While these arrangements may represent more flexibility for employers, they can translate into more precarious employment for workers; lower pay for equivalent education, skills, and experience than those Schulte with long-term employment arrangements; fewer benefits; and greater turnover” (Schulte et al., 2019, p.1). “These outcomes can negatively affect the workforce’s health and overall well-being” (Schulte et al., 2019, p.1). According to Schulte et al. (2019), “Factors influencing worker health and well-being go beyond traditional occupational safety and health (OSH) concerns (e.g., exposures to chemical, physical, or biological agents)” (p.1). “They include changing demographic profiles (e.g., more women, immigrant, and older workers, more chronic disease and mental health conditions), varying employment arrangements and intensification of work organization demands, increasing psychosocial hazards, and changes in the built and natural environments” (Schulte et al., 2019, p.1). “These work-related factors combine with individual health and lifestyle and factors in the home, community, and general society to affect worker health and well-being” (Schulte et al., 2019, p.1). “Considering work and nonwork influences is consistent with the holistic World Health Organization (WHO) global model for action, various European efforts for well-being, and the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Total Worker Health perspective which advocates policies, practices, and programs that both protect workers and prevent injury and disease, on and off the job” (Schulte et al., 2019, p.1). here are occupational risks for immigrant workers

Migrant Workers

There are many migrant wor kers all over the world. Migrant workers are individuals who have moved from their country to foreign countries for work. A Ccording to Moyce et al. (2018), “Migrant workers are recognized to be among the most vulnerable members of society” (P.1). M oyce et al. (2018) also stated that “they are often engaged in what are known as 3-D jobs, dirty, dangerous, and demanding (sometimes degrading or demeaning), and these workers are often hidden from or invisible to the public eye and from public policy” (p.11). “migrants work for less pay, for longer hours, and in worse conditions than do nonimmigrants and are often subject to human rights violations, abuse, human trafficking, and violence” (p.1). “M ost importantly, these precarious workers may take greater risks on the job, do work without adequate training or protective equipment, and do not complain about unsafe working conditions; This situation is the most critical for immigrant workers who lack work authorization and are at risk for losing their jobs or even being deported” (Moyce et al., 2018, p.1). “These conditions put immigrant workers at increased risk for occupational fatalities and injuries when compared with native-born workers, even those doing the same job in the same industry” (Moyce et al., 2018, p.1). “Recent increases in incidents and costs of occupational injuries and fatalities have been attributed largely to immigrant workers, reflecting the increased burden of occupational injuries and fatalities shouldered by immigrant workers” (Moyce et al., 2018, p.1). “The proportion of fatal and nonfatal workplace injuries among immigrants has been increasing, reflecting a shift of the most hazardous jobs to the immigrant workforce.” (Moyce et al., 2018, p.1). According to Obrero et al. (2021), “Most of the literature examining the effects of immigration on labor outcomes has focused on wages and employment of the native population” (p.1). “Changes in the labor supply generated by immigration inflows and outflows may affect workplace safety” (Obrero et al., 2021, p.1). There are many o ccupational hazards that migrant workers face, for example, environmental, chemical and physical hazards.

What are the Occupational Hazards Faced by Migrant Workers?

Environmental Hazards in the Workplace

Migrant workers face environmental hazards while working. According to Moyce et al. (2018), “Many of the health risks for migrant workers are due to environmental hazards inherent in the occupational setting” (p.1). “Migrant workers tend to be employed in jobs that carry increased exposure to environmental toxins, including extreme temperatures, pesticides, and chemicals” (Moyce et al., 2018, p.1). “Using the European Working Conditions Survey, an analysis of nearly 30,000 workers in 31 European countries reveals higher rates of negative occupational exposures among migrants when compared with native workers” (Moyce et al., 2018, p.1). “Migrant workers were more likely than native workers to be exposed to high temperatures, loud noises, strong vibrations, and fast work speeds and to stand for long periods. These individuals often worked without contracts and had unfavorable work schedules Moyce et al., 2018, p.1). “ThE industry’s most likely to employ migrant workers are often those that carry the most risk for adverse worker health” (Moyce et al., 2018, p.1). “According to the U.S. Census of Fatal O ccupational Injuries, immigrant workers were 15% more likely to be fatally injured on the job than were their native-born counterparts” (Moyce et al., 2018, p.1). Thus, m igrant workers face environmental hazards while working because migrant workers tend to be employed in jobs that carry increased exposure to environmental toxins.

Chemical Hazards in the Workplace

Migrant workers face chemical hazards in the workplace. According to Moyce et al. (2018), “Exposure to dangerous chemicals is common in many of the industries in which immigrants work” (p.1). “F or example, workers employed as housekeepers in residences or in hotels are exposed to chemicals in cleaning agents that can lead to dermatitis, respiratory diseases, and cancer and also, the hotel cleaners regularly work with hazardous chemicals containing ammonia and other irritating solvents” (Moyce et al., 2018, p.1). “Immigrants who work in nail salons are exposed to formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate, and the chemicals used in the dry-cleaning business have been linked to negative health outcomes” (Moyce et al., 2018, p.1). “Construction workers are exposed to chemicals from paints” (Moyce et al., 2018, p.1). “All three of these industries—hotel cleaners, nail salons and dry cleaning—are dominated by immigrant workers, which again fits the pattern of immigrant workers populating the most hazardous occupations, often without adequate training and protection” (Moyce et al., 2018, p.1). Thus, Migrant workers face chemical hazards in the workplace which have been linked to negative health outcomes.

Physical Hazards in the Workplace

Migrant workers face physical hazards in the workplace. According to Moyce et al. (2018), “the Canadian Center for Occupational Safety and Health, a hotel housekeeper changes body position every three seconds while cleaning a guest room” (P.1). “Hotel housekeeping results in the potential for muscle strain related to body position, repetitive motion, fast-paced work, and heavy lifting of cleaning equipment, such as industrial-strength vacuum cleaners” (Moyce et al., (2018). “Hotel cleaners report injuries from lifting heavy beds or from exposure to bodily secretions or needles when cleaning bathrooms” (Moyce et al., (2018). “Workers employed in the agriculture and farming sectors experience high rates of musculoskeletal injury resulting from handling large farm animals, exposure to hazardous equipment, crush injuries, repetitive motion, and falls” (Moyce et al., (2018). “Workers employed in construction are subject to hazards from work involving high elevations, large cutting tools, and heavy lifting and also falls accounted for 43% of fatal injuries in the construction industry” (Moyce et al., (2018). “Fatalities often occur as a result of machinery, resulting in 770 annual average deaths in the U.S. construction industry, and most of these fatalities occur from heavy equipment, tractors, or other machines used in construction, and rates are highest in the agricultural, forestry, and fishing sectors” (Moyce et al., (2018). Thus, Migrant workers face physical hazards in the workplace because of muscle strains related to strenuous physical activities.


In conclusion, immigrant workers are prone to facing occupational risks. Some of these risks are physical injuries, chemical injuries, discrimination from colleagues and barriers i.e., language barriers. P olicies such as fair wages, safety, medical insurance coverage and adequate training should be put in place in order to ensure that the immigrant workers are protected. There are many o ccupational hazards that migrant workers face, for example, environmental, chemical and physical hazards. Immigrant workers contribute to the economy, and it is therefore essential to ensure that they are protected and that they feel valued and appreciated.




Bellés-Obrero, C., Martin Bassols, N., & Vall Castello, J. (2021). Safety at work and immigration. Journal of Population Economics, 34(1), 167-221.

Beus, J. M., McCord, M. A., & Zohar, D. (2016). Workplace safety: A review and research synthesis. Organizational psychology review, 6(4), 352-381.

Jilcha, K., & Kitaw, D. (2017). Industrial occupational safety and health innovation for sustainable development. Engineering science and technology, an international journal, 20(1), 372-380.

Moyce, S. C., & Schenker, M. (2018). Migrant workers and their occupational health and safety. Annual review of public health, 39, 351-365.

Schulte, P. A., Delclos, G., Felknor, S. A., & Chosewood, L. C. (2019). Toward an expanded focus for occupational safety and health: a commentary. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(24), 4946.



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