Occupational injuries among day laborers in Houston

Natalie Fernandez-Espada, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Research has indicated that day laborers engage in higher risk occupations and suffer a high number of occupationally related fatal and non-fatal injuries. Although there have been some studies focusing on immigrant workers and their occupational injuries, none to our knowledge has studied Houston’s day laborers. An exploratory study of Houston’s day laborer population was conducted in 2008 by Dr. Fernández-Esquer from the University of Texas. The aims of the current study are to analyze secondary data from this parent study and describe the prevalence of the self reported occupational injuries among Houston immigrant day laborers seeking work during the months of October through December 2008. The study also aims to determine if the reported injuries varied by age group, education level, length of time living in the U.S. and length of time working as day laborers and describe if injuries were more common by the number of different job types or job conditions reported or the use of personal protective equipment used (PPE). This study analyzed 325 questionnaires that included job-related information from the parent study. One hundred and nine workers (35 %) reported an occupational injury or illness in the year before the interview. The most frequent injuries or illnesses reported were falls (26.7 %), cuts and lacerations (23.3 %) and being struck by an object (18.3 %). Over half of the workers (57 %) reported working 4 to 6 different jobs in the year before the interview, followed by 22.5 % reporting 1 to 3 different jobs. A combined 79 % of day laborers in Houston reported exposure to 7 or more of the job conditions listed and 69 % of those workers also reported an injury or illness. PPE use varied from 44 % of workers reporting using 4 to 6 PPE items to 6.8 % reporting not using any type of PPE. Thirty two percent of workers reporting not using any PPE also reported an injury or illness. Injuries were found not to have varied significantly by age group, time living in the US, time working as a day laborer, numbers of different job types and the number of PPE used. Injuries did vary significantly by education level of the participants and the number of different job conditions reported (education, X2 (4, N = 315) = 12.651, p =0.013; and job conditions, X2 (3, N = 319) = 14.698, p = 0.002). Although this first study of Houston’s day laborers was successful at engaging the population and getting background information regarding the occupational health of these workers, more studies are needed to further characterize the day laborers occupational experiences and injuries along with determining what specific job types and job conditions were present when injuries occurred and what kind of PPE was being used at the time. It is also clear that these workers need better safety training programs regarding working in potentially dangerous jobs and job conditions. They would also benefit from programs that would help empower them to negotiate for safer conditions.

Subject Area

Occupational health|Epidemiology

Recommended Citation

Fernandez-Espada, Natalie, "Occupational injuries among day laborers in Houston" (2011). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1494904.