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November 29, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

for Molly Parker

Chair: Julie Postma

Wednesday, November 29, 2023, 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Wildfire Smoke Exposure in the Agricultural Workplace: Exploring
Worker and Employer Perspectives on Occupational Safety & Health

Health risks and impacts associated with climate change are becoming more complex and difficult to manage. Climate hazards are increasing human vulnerability in all regions across the globe. In the Western US, climate change has brought a higher frequency of extreme heat days, decreased precipitation, and an increase in the probability of wildfires. Counties in Washington State (WA) with the highest number of agricultural workers have had the greatest concurrent extreme heat and particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure from wildfire smoke. PM2.5 increases adverse respiratory, cardiovascular, and some mental health outcomes. The largely Latino agricultural worker community in Central WA faces multiple occupational health risks related to heat, and wildfire smoke exposure. Although workers face various climate related hazards, this research focuses primarily exposure and workplace protections related to wildfire smoke. Due to repeated exposure to wildfire smoke in recent years a petition was filed for emergency protections for workers. In response, the WA Department of Labor and Industries instated temporary emergency smoke rules in 2021 and 2022. The rule included language for educating employers and supervisors about the health risks of smoke exposure, air quality monitoring and communication, and symptom monitoring and management. Currently, there is a permanent rule proposed to protect worker health during hazardous smoke conditions. Implementation of the new permanent smoke rule has yet to be evaluated. The purpose of the research is to support protective workplace interventions through exploration of agricultural worker and employer perspectives on occupational safety and health during periods of wildfire smoke. Critical theory and the CDC framework for policy evaluation guide this research to examine the perspectives of those most impacted.

1. Document worker experiences and perspectives on climate hazards and workplace protections.
2. Explore and compare perspectives by industry role (owner/grower, supervisor/manager, and foreman/crew chief) on smoke exposure, air quality monitoring and protective strategies.
3. Engage agricultural workers in air quality monitoring citizen science.

Multiple methods will be used for a three-manuscript dissertation. The first study uses a Qualitative Descriptive method to document agricultural worker perspectives during periods of heat and wildfire smoke exposure, and Reflexive Thematic Analysis to identify themes in the data. The second study uses Exploratory Sequential Mixed Methods to guide design and administration of a survey to be distributed to agricultural employers throughout Washington State. The third study proposed is a NIOSH R03 grant application for a Participatory Action Research study to engage agricultural workers in sharing experiences with wildfire smoke exposure and air quality monitoring via photovoice.

This research aligns with the NINR Strategic plan to reduce and eliminate systemic and structural inequities that place certain populations at a disadvantage to achieve their full health potential. The research also aligns with the goals of the Healthy People 2030 initiative in that it addresses social determinants of health such as risk exposure, social inequities, and social disadvantage. The results will identify gaps in education and training on environmental health literacy related to wildfire smoke exposure and air quality monitoring. The results will also inform the development of targeted educational toolkits and trainings. This research draws attention to the disproportionate exposure of climate-related environmental threats faced by vulnerable populations and promotes community engagement to develop actionable solutions and adaptations. The research builds on a current body of knowledge and ongoing research throughout the Western US that is examining implications of climate-related occupational health policy.

ZOOM: https://wsu.zoom.us/j/94657611000?pwd=akR1cjJFeG02bE9YeElUd0UzVWNuUT09

Meeting ID 946 5761 1000; Passcode 891774


November 29, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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