The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported that a recent survey of immigrants on occupational health and work safety showed that most of them never heard of workers' compensation.
In order to assess knowledge of workers’ compensation, participants were asked if someone in the U.S. ever told them that their medical bills would be paid by workers’ compensation insurance if they are hurt because of their work. If respondents answered yes, they were asked to write down who told them.
227 participants out of 366 (62%) were not aware of workers’ compensation. Only 76 individuals out of 126 who said yes to understanding workers’ compensation wrote who told them. Sources identified included supervisors, human resources, family members, friends, doctors, co-workers, teachers, and NH Coalition of Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) through safety training classes.
Of the 366 participants in the survey, 29 noted they had been injured at work.
Common body parts affected included hands, fingers, wrists, backs, knees, feet, elbows, and abdominal regions.
The majority of those injured on the job had been in the U.S. for either 4-6 years or 6+ years.
Out of those 29, 17 were lost time claims.
23 told their supervisors of their injuries. 4 did not report their injuries because they left the job due to the injuries, a finger cut was not considered "serious," one felt that if the injury had been reported "nothing would change," and one said they would be fired.
The survey reflects that the respondents felt that their jobs involved injurious work conditions more often than not, which would be reflective of the manual labor conditions one would expect immigrant labor to be performing.
Of these conditions, respondents felt more often than not that safety issues were known but not taken seriously.
But the overall experience of respondents is that there is generally good supervisor support and that "bad treatment" was almost never experienced.
The top three jobs reflected in the survey were factory/production, cleaning, and food service - in total representing 67% of all job responses.
Perhaps reflecting a shift in immigration patterns, 44% reported country of origin being Asia with other nationalities substantially less.
The sampling reflected 28% with some college education, and 32% graduating high school levels.
It's a small sampling so the study has its limitations - those are noted in the report. Nevertheless it is telling that even with a relatively educated immigrant working population, workers' compensation seems either misconstrued or suspect as a protection system.
The report is here.
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