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Latino Migrant Farmworkers in Saskatchewan: Occupational Health and Safety Education and the Sustainability of Agriculture



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In Saskatchewan, there is a dearth of scholarly documentation on the experiences of Latino migrant temporary farmworkers, especially with respect to their agricultural occupational health and safety (OHS) education and training. Other research suggests that, in Canada and the USA, systematic agricultural OHS training for Latino migrant temporary farmworkers is generally insufficient and, in many cases, linguistically and culturally inappropriate. The overall purposes of this dissertation are to investigate the major challenges with respect to Latino migrant farmworker OHS education and training, to explore the implications of these challenges, and to understand the relevant social contexts (interpersonal-organizational, community, and institutional-public policy) that add specificity and complexity to the aforementioned challenges. A blended theoretical framework incorporates the social dimensions of sustainable development in agriculture, adult education theory, innovative approaches to worker agricultural OHS education and training, critical ethnography, as well as a socioecological model of health. Critical ethnography influenced the field methodology and the interpretation of field data. As both theory and methodology, critical ethnography includes sensitivities to the challenges of intercultural communication. A thematic analysis was used to condense field interview data and to identify major themes and sub-themes. Three main themes were examined: 1) Language barriers as factors in workplace communications and workplace tensions, 2) Attitudes towards OHS learning and practices, and 3) Work organization and workplace culture as factors complicating access to English language learning. The study finds that language barriers, personal and workplace cultural factors, as well as certain aspects of migratory labour regimes and seasonal agricultural work are the major challenges to Latino farmworker OHS education, training, and learning. I conclude that Latino migrant temporary farmworkers need to receive English language training and more OHS education and training to address unsafe habits, particularly with respect to working with agricultural equipment. Language barriers and cultural factors have the potential to put both migrant and local personnel OHS at risk. Employment contracts under agricultural temporary foreign worker programs contribute to a culture of work that is focused primarily on productivity. They also contribute to preventing most Latino farmworkers from engaging in educational initiatives and from looking after their general and occupational health. Employment arrangements and conditions are also important factors that result in migrant farmworkers struggling with issues of powerlessness, family separation, isolation, and stress—circumstances that are not favourable to studying and learning nor to cultivating new health and safety habits. Effective educational communication for farmworker OHS preparation is important to ensuring the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of Latino temporary migrant farmworkers. The promotion of such wellbeing contributes to moving agriculture towards social sustainability. It is recommended that, at each workplace where Latino migrant temporary farmworkers are employed, a fully bilingual professional also be employed to act as a liaison among stakeholders and assist them with interpretation and translation. Additionally, to ensure the wellbeing of both migrant and local personnel, program stakeholders need to implement alternatives to hourly-based contracts. An important conceptual and concrete contribution of the study is that it provides an alternative adult education approach to conventional agricultural occupational health and safety promotion. In doing so, it also questions occupational health and safety frameworks that focus too exclusively on medical and engineering/technical dimensions.



Migrant workers, occupational health and safety, safety training, adult education



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


School of Environment and Sustainability


Environment and Sustainability


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