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Work arrangements and hazardous exposures_ evidence from ...

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Work organisationandoccupational health and safety in AustralianandUnited Kingdomhorticulture
AnnabelleBamfordUniversityof New South WalesSydney, Australia
Overviewofthe horticulture industryOverview of OHS regulationThe problemMethodsCommon aspects of employment practicesResponsibilityInspection and enforcementUnionsSomeconclusionsReferences
Reliance on temporary and highly mobile workers, and the concomitant shift of economic risk from employer to worker, is no less evident in horticulture than otherindustries1Shrinking profit marginsSeasonal variations inproduction,and handling and gradingdemandsForeign-bornworkers feature prominently through seasonal workerschemesMany hazards are inherent to the way the work isdone2Remote rural areasPiecework which encourages high productionLittle discretion over how the work is performedWorkers are often temporary and foreign-born which limitstheir abilityto organise collectively
Horticultural work is subject to the full range of OHS legislation which includes a hierarchy of overlapping and complimentary responsibilitiesSupply chains can present a serious challengeGangmasters(Licensing) Act 2004REACHAustralian initiatives, though not pertaining to horticulture, suggest a model that could be applied to itLegal regulation backed by credible enforcement is the primary driver for organisations to initiate changes to improve OHSperformance3Inspectionin agriculture/horticulture is not a priorityand is under-resourcedWork-related mobility can complicate the diagnosis , treatment and recording of occupational illness
This study describes how work organisation, particularly temporary and itinerant employment, is affecting OHS protections for horticultural workers, many of whom are foreign-born temporaries, in two countries: Australia and the UK.
Country SelectionComparable legal frameworks and comparabledilemmasWorking class families traditionally provided the peak harvest workforce but temporary foreign-born workers now feature prominentlyWorkingHoliday Maker program and far less so the Seasonal WorkerProgram (AU)Recently acceded EU Member States andother eligible aliens(UK)Participant SelectionSnowball sampling beginning with in invitation email to horticultural businesses and labour providers, regulatory agencies and unions, and in-person recruitment of workers at camping sites, working hostels and workplacesIn total 67semi-structuredinterviews were undertaken

Common tasks: picking, thinning, pruning, pesticide spraying (AU only), ancillary jobsManual, repetitive, physically demandingAward baseline appeared irrelevant, especially under subcontracting arrangementsWillingness to engage in short-term casual work and be available without noticeDiscrepancy with regard to inductionandtrainingCritical factor seemed to be workers’ temporarinessWorkersfrequently associated OHS risks with an immediate effectTemporary nature of workers’ employment appeared to affect their attitudes

Concernsabout potential avoidance of OHS responsibilitiesPerceptible but not pervasiveThe nature of the work appeared critical to workers’ uncertainty in regards responsibilities, and their likelihood of reporting mistreatmentBackpacker-tourists in Australia, often proficient in English and educated, did not appear more conversant or willing to speak outViewed the work as short-termLimited knowledge of entitlements to worker’s compensationAgain, it was the nature of the work that appeared criticalFindingscontribute to growing awareness that flexible work arrangements and worker mobility challenge existing workers’ compensationframeworks4, 5
A common sentiment in both countries was that OHS inspectorates are under-resourced and inspections rareGeographyPresumption against proactive inspectionsLimited resourcing and remit of GLA‘Discretionary’ approachDiscrepancy within Australian jurisdictions in terms of inspectorates’ accessibility and serviceDifficulties in allaying fears of inspection and government encroachmentEU supply chain provisions for chemicals were not being very effectively enforced
Union officials reported finding it almost impossible to penetrate the industryScattered workplacesResource pressuresEmployer hostilityShort-term employmentCleavages based on ethnicity and national origin can diminish worker solidarity
The findings raise significant questions about the extent to which the vulnerability that comes from being foreign-born can be disassociated from vulnerability arising from the work situationThe evidence tends to suggest that it is the nature of the work that is criticalDespite these being very different groups of workers the results are similarReliance on foreign-born workers is part of explicit work organisation and supply chains nowadaysThe ‘outsider’ status exacerbated vulnerabilityRegulatory coverage in agriculture/horticulture has always been limited and under-resourced but with the growth of more intensive production regimes there is more need for closer regulatoryscrutiny
BinfordL. From fields of power to fields of sweat: the dual process of constructing temporary migrant labour in Mexico and Canada.Third World Quarterly. 2009; 30(3): 503-517.GrzywaczJG, Lipscomb HJ, Casanova V,NeisB, Fraser C, Monaghan P,VallejosQM. Organization of work in the agricultural, forestry, and fishing sector in the US southeast: implications for immigrant workers’ occupational safety and health.American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 2013; 56(8): 925-939.WaltersD, Johnstone R, Frick K, Quinlan M,Baril-GingrasG,Thébaud-MonyA. Regulating workplace risks: a comparative study of inspection regimes in times of change. Cheltenham, GB: Edward Elgar, 2011.QuinlanM. Workers’ compensation and the challenges posed by changing patterns of work: evidence from Australia.Policy and Practice in Health and Safety. 2004; 2(1): 25-52.AsfawA. Disparities in access to health insurance and workers’ compensation benefit between non contingent and contingent farm workers in U.S. agriculture.Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice. 2014; 7(3): 81-97.





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Work arrangements and hazardous exposures_ evidence from ...