Providing training to forest workers, who have among the highest job-related injury, illness, and fatality rates, to help them reduce the risk of getting injured on the job

Healthy forest ecosystems are created and maintained through activities that require hiring workers. Ecological resilience, economic viability, and social equity — the so-called three legs of sustainability — are thus inextricably intertwined, and under intelligent management, can be mutually reinforcing. All too often, however, forest ecosystem restoration workers, who are mostly Latino immigrants, are not treated well. They work for low pay and frequently are not paid for all the hours they work. Occupational injury, illness and fatality rates are disproportionately high among them, yet they rarely receive health benefits or safety training. Often they do not get rest breaks, are not supplied with drinking water on the job, are issued inoperable or worn out safety equipment, are pressured to continue working when sick or injured, and are retaliated against if they speak up for their rights.

Lomakatsi Restoration Project and the Northwest Forest Worker Center follow worker rights and protection standards set forth by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Learn more from OSHA here.

Reports

Dangers in the Woods: Root Causes
Peligros en el Bosque: Causas Raices
by Northwest Forest Worker Center; Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety & Health Center; and Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP), University of California Berkeley
Assessment of nontimber forest products in the United States under changing conditions
by James L. Chamberlain, Marla R. Emery, & Toral Patel-Weynand. June 2018.
Gifford Pinchot National Forest Beargrass Harvest Program Monitoring Final Report
by Northwest Forest Worker Center. April 2015.
Healthy Forests, Abused Workers
by the Alliance of Forest Workers and Harvesters and the Labor Occupational Health Program, UC Berkeley
This report presents the results of a community-engaged survey of 150 immigrant, Spanish-speaking forest workers in Jackson and Josephine counties, Oregon, to document occupational injuries and illnesses, medical treatment options, wage issues and general working conditions among them. 
Download the full report here:

Forest workers, who are distinct from the logging work force, perform the manual labor necessary to restore and maintain the health of America’s forests. They develop, maintain, or protect forests and forest resources through such activities as thinning forests and clearing underbrush to prevent catastrophic wildfire;  pre-commercial thinning; planting trees; combating insects, pests, and diseases harmful to trees; restoring wildlife habitat; building erosion and water control structures and other tasks.

The work is inherently dangerous. Common workplace practices such as pushing workers to work harder and faster, not providing rest breaks, and having workers work too close together increase the risk of injury. Although official estimates put the injury rate for forest workers in Oregon at three times that of all of private industry, and the fatality rate at nine times private industry, the survey Northwest Forest Worker Center conducted among forest workers in southern Oregon, as well as investigative journalism and other social science research, suggests that the rates are significantly higher. Both workers and employers have incentives not to report injuries: workers fear retaliation if they are injured on the job, and employers may lose contracting opportunities or may attract unfavorable attention from regulatory agencies if their injury rates are noticeably high.

There is thus a strong need to educate workers about their rights and to train them in best practices for improving occupational safety and health. NFWC’s Sí Sé: Salud y Seguridad en el Trabajo is a promotora (community health worker) program in which members of the forest worker community in Medford, Oregon, are trained as promotoras (lay health educators or community health workers). Promotora programs have been used effectively among farmworkers for over 30 years, but the NFWC’s program was the first designed to address the unique occupational hazards that forest workers face. Since the fall of 2011, NFWC promotoras have trained hundreds of forest workers in southern Oregon using the educational materials NFWC and LOHP developed for this purpose.

Northwest Forest Worker Center collaborate in this project with the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at the University of California, Berkeley, the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety & Health Center (PNASH) at the University of Washington, and Lomakatsi on training forest workers in southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley in preventing on-the-job injuries and educating them about their rights.

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