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Insights from the margins: gender, work and health in a restructuring fishing industry


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Title: Insights from the margins: gender, work and health in a restructuring fishing industry

Insights from the margins gender, work and
health in a restructuring fishing
industry Barbara Neis and Stacey
Wareham SafetyNet Memorial University of
(No Transcript)
Why a focus on rural and remote OHS?
  • OHS because of the continuing neglect of the
    contribution of work-related exposures to ill
  • Rural because of evidence of a health
    disadvantage in rural communities that increases
    with remoteness (CIHI 2006)
  • Linked to disparities in income and education but
    rurality is independently important
  • Is the relationship between rurality and health
    linked to rural work?

Why gender, work and health?
  • Research on work and OHS in rural and remote
    environments focused on mining, farming,
    forestry, fishing
  • Male-dominated employment sectors
  • General neglect of womens work and gender in OHS
  • Particularly strong in rural and remote areas.

Wider Relevance
  • Research on rural, resource-based industries can
    help us understand the social-ecology of the
    relationship between work and health
  • Help us see ways social and physical environments
    interact to mediate health
  • Resource-based industries are
  • Closely linked to environmental change and
    diversity (physical environment)
  • Subject to frequent, severe change/restructuring
    (boom- bust industries)
  • Studying change (restructuring) can help us see
    interactivity as well as underlying processes
    more clearly (Dolan et al. 2005 Ommer et al.

Wider Relevance
  • This work reminds us of the need to incorporate
    social power into our understanding of the
    relationships between social and physical
    environments and health
  • These relationships are dynamic and to some
    degree driven and channeled by asymmetric power
    relations that can shift fields of opportunity
    that are structured spatially, temporally, and
    institutionally in ways that constrain and
    channel power dynamics. (MacDonald et al. 2006).

Newfoundland and Labrador fishery
The Setting 1992-1994 collapse of Atlantic
groundfish stocks Fisheries closures Plant
closures Massive layoffs Industrial
restructuring away from groundfish to
shellfish Mechanization Increased seasonality
Shift Groundfish to Shellfish
Shellfish landings for Eastern Canada (1973-2003)
Trends in Compensation Claims by Fishing Sector
Pelot (2000)
  • Longitudinal analysis of SAR incidents and
    fishing activity 1993-1999
  • Temporal trends in fishing activity ê 1994-5, é
  • Inshore fishing areas had low and steady incident
  • Offshore activity increased with fishery
    restructuring from cod to crab
  • Offshore fishing areas had increasingly higher
    incident rates

Snow Crab Licences and Permits
Perceptions Of Risk Harvester Focus Group
  • Fishing farther from shore, in small, aging,
    inappropriate boats
  • Buddying up to mitigate risk
  • Unfamiliar with crab fishery
  • Navigating through shipping lanes
  • without radar
  • Modification of vessels to better suit new
  • Space constraints and safety

  • Enterprises cut costs by dumping insurance,
    cutting crew, crewing with family, buddying-up
  • Keep fishing even after injury
  • After 1998, escalating costs, lower prices
  • Vessel replacement regulations constrain
  • IQs reduce risk in competitive fishery by
    reducing the pressure to fish in bad weather, to
  • IQ benefits compromised by declining stocks,
    community norms, trust agreements

Source Grzetic 2002
  • Gender
  • It is unclear whether fishing with family members
    makes fishing more or less safe
  • Men assessed women to be as good as men
  • Women are inexperienced as new entrants,
    exclusion of women from intergenerational
  • Safety implications -- women monitor safety
    practices of men on board
  • This and fear of family repercussions from
    disaster may mitigate contribution of masculinity
    to risk-taking

Fibre-glass boat-building (FBB)
  • Boat-building has a long history in Newfoundland
    and Labrador (NL)
  • Culturally and economically important
  • Shift from wooden to fibreglass reinforced boats
    in past 15 years
  • Rapid expansion to 48 fibreglass boat building
    and repair businesses in Newfoundland and
    Labrador around 2000
  • Subsequent rapid decline
  • At peak, approximately 750 workers
  • Working in small, remote, nonunionized operations

(No Transcript)
Styrene Exposures FBB
  • Fibreglass boat building and repair requires the
    release of the chemical styrene, a known
    neurotoxin associated with
  • Mood instability (Campagna et al., 1995) and
    aggression that may negatively impact social
    relationships (Julien, et al., 2000)
  • Irritation and forgetfulness (Flodin, Ekberg,
    Anderson, 1989)
  • Fatigue and depression (ATSDR, 1992)
  • Reduced color vision (Castillo, Baldwin, Sassine,
    Mergler, 2001)
  • Hearing loss (Sliwinska-Kowalska, et al., 2003)

Community-based study FBB
  • Origin Concern among OHS inspectors about
    inconsistent PPE use among FBB workers
  • Objective To assess social, cognitive, and
    cultural factors affecting safety behaviours with
    respect to styrene exposure among groups who have
    personal contact with or have a vested interest
    in the FBB industry
  • Method Qualitative and quantitative research
  • Interviews with community members, managers,
    employees, and key informants.
  • Four surveys for the four interest groups

Precarity, Dependency and Risk
  • All employees working with chemicals in Canadian
    workplaces should have knowledge of the hazardous
    chemicals in their workplace - Workplace
    Hazardous Materials Information Systems (WHMIS)
  • In this study
  • 61 (26) employees had completed WHMIS training,
    33 (14) had not
  • 44 (18) indicated they did not receive safety
    training before they started their job
  • 37 (16) indicated they had not received any
    safety training since starting their job
  • 54 (23) indicated that they had not been
    informed about the health effects of styrene

Precarity, dependency and risk
  • Situational factors can affect the safety
    behaviours of employees making them more willing
    to take risks at work to get the job done.
  • Study participants often talked about the
    importance of the FBB industry to the survival of
    their community
  • This reality places a great deal of pressure on
    the managers/owners of these workplaces
  • It is also a source of power over workers
  • with the fish plant closing there are a lot
    more people looking for work so I can pick the
    best ones out. (Manager A)
  • The immediate needs of employees (rather than the
    long term benefits of a healthy and safe work
    place) can increase employee risk tolerance
    (Orton et al., 2001)

Community Attachment OHS
  • When employees perceive a lack of commitment to
    OHS among managers, job insecurity tends to be
    associated with low levels of safety knowledge,
    less self-reported safety compliance, and greater
    likelihood of workplace injuries and accidents
    (Probst, 2004)
  • Community attachment or sense of belonging to
    place appears to affect the extent to which
    individuals will amplify or attenuate risk
    associated with that place (Masuda and Gavin,
    2006) and tolerate risk (Billig, 2006)
  • Those FBB employees who reported being attached
    to their community were more likely to report
    that they were satisfied with their job
  • Heightened community attachment was also
    associated with reporting they were not worried
    about the health effects of styrene exposure at
    their workplace

  • I suppose it's they tolerate the risk because
    of the love of the community, and the love of the
    fact that they've got a job, and as they can stay
    here, they don't have to go away. And there's
    employment for them, and there's something for
    them to do. And they don't want to
    moveUnfortunate that it's that way, but, what do
    you do? (Teacher Community A)
  • Cause they workers don't want to move, so they
    take anything to stay. (Wife of Former
    Fibreglass Boat Building Plant Worker - Community
  • The extent to which employees believed their
    family members and their physician were concerned
    about the health effects of styrene exposure
    affected their safety-related behaviour at work
  • But HCP lacked knowledge of OHS risks in the

Gender and Sex
  • Male-dominated industry
  • Some women occupying positions that have been
    traditionally held by men in this industry
  • The extent to which the safety equipment
    prescribed to these workers is appropriate for
    women is questionable (e.g., equipment fit)
  • Women tend to be working in an administrative
  • Exposure of office personnel was not a matter of
    concern or acknowledged as a threat to health but
    could be, as in autobody and other similar small
    businesses (Eakin)
  • I dont smell it anymoreyou get use to it
    (Manager B, female)
  • The long term effects of styrene exposure may be
    different for men and women given their
    biological specificities
  • Women family members and others in community were
    often concerned about health effects of styrene
    on husbands, family members.

Work-related Respiratory Problems among Shellfish
Processing Workers
Shellfish processing
  • Is associated with chemicals and allergens that
    can trigger respiratory problems like asthma,
    bronchitis, etc.
  • These include
  • Aerosolized proteins
  • Cleaning chemicals
  • Ammonia
  • Sulphites (to brighten raw product)
  • Forklift fumes
  • Estimated 22,000 workers across Eastern Canada
  • Primarily female workers, gender division of

Licensed Crab Processing Plants, 2003
Occupational Asthma
  • Asthma that is caused by exposure to fumes,
    dusts, chemicals in the workplace
  • Symptoms of asthma (shortness of breath, wheeze,
    cough, chest tightness) while at work, sometimes
    after work immediate and delayed
  • Symptoms usually improve while away from work
    (i.e. weekends, vacation, off-season)
  • Crab asthma- caused by sensitization to HMW
    proteins aerosolized during processing

Crab Asthma Study Objectives
  • Document beliefs and concerns of workers,
    management and health professionals related to
    working with crab
  • Compare allergen levels associated with different
    processes and plants, document proteins involved,
    explore ways to reduce levels
  • Estimate the percentage of workers likely to have
    occupational asthma and allergy in a variety of
    plants with different processes and histories
  • Link history of exposures with likelihood of
  • Document quality of life and socio-economic
    impacts of crab asthma among affected workers

  • Crab processing is associated with high
    percentage of work-related asthma in the 4 NL
  • Approximately 18 participants - almost certain
    or highly probable diagnosis of OAA
  • Highest percentage (close to 50) in the oldest
    plant where there was also poor ventilation
  • Cooked Crab cleaning Sawing in low ventilation
    areas were highest risk jobs
  • (Gautrin et al. submitted)

Cumulative Exposures
  • Participants listed up to three jobs they had
    performed at the plant
  • They indicated how many seasons they had spent at
  • We calculated number of weeks exposed at each job
  • Multiplied that by the average exposure level in
    that area of the plant
  • Added together exposures from the three jobs to
    get cumulative exposure over their careers

Exposures and illness
  • Workers with higher cumulative exposure were more
    likely to have crab asthma
  • Women had higher cumulative exposures on average
    than men
  • working in higher exposure jobs
  • on average had worked longer in the industry
  • Women were more likely to be sick
  • (Howse et al. 2006)

Other issues
  • Negative effects on quality of life for the sick
  • Issues with quality of medical care, HCP
    knowledge about OAA, access to specialists, cost
    of drugs
  • Workers (primarily women) tended to work until
    could no longer work because
  • few alternatives for employment
  • family responsibilities
  • like having a job
  • economic independence
  • Those who did were putting themselves at risk of
    longer-term breathing problems
  • (Howse, 2005)

These jobs matter especially to women
Fish processing as of nonprofessional
employment in rural NL
Economic Zone (s) Men Women
Labrador Coast (Zones 1, 4 5 Combined) 9.7 12
Northern Peninsula (Zones 6 7) 7.5 13.4
Terra Nova Park to White Bay (Zones 11 14) 8.4 11.3
Bonavista Peninsula (Zone 15) 11.4 15.2
Trinity/Conception Bay North (Zone 17) 12.3 18.7
Irish Loop (Zone 20) Average 15.1 10.8 21.6 15.37
Data from Canada Census, 2001. Sourced Community
Accounts, May, 2006.
Lessons from the Margins
  • Interactions between the social and physical
    environments of rural and remote work, gender and
  • Environmental degradation triggered industrial
    restructuring that interacted with the built
    environment (boats, plants), policy change, wider
    industrial change and with gender and class
    relations in these communities to influence the
    risk of illness, injury and fatality options
    and opportunities for dealing with it (MacDonald
    et al. forthcoming)
  • Growing awareness of the risks at the level of
    the boat, the plant and the larger OHS system
    (through research) triggered interventions
    (individual, organizational)
  • The industry continues to be highly dynamic -
    shifting species (sea cucumber) and now to
    aquaculture and may shift from local to migrant
    workers (Moreau and Neis in prep Grzetic, in
  • Processing work is also shifting rapidly around
    the world knowledge of the risks and solutions
    is not necessarily following.

Lessons from the margins
  • Fishing, FBB and shellfish processing are all
    forms of gendered precarious employment
  • (Quinlan, Mayhew, Bohle, 2001)
  • Precarious work is associated with higher injury
    rates, higher hazard exposures, and related
    physical and mental illness (Aronsson, 1999)
  • Substandard employee training and knowledge of
    OHS standards (Aronsson, 1999 Eakin, 1992)
  • Challenges linked to regulation of OHS policies
    and procedures (e.g., Mayhew, 1997a Mayhew
    Quinlan, 1997 Quinlan, Mayhew Bohle, 2001)
  • Economic pressures can have a particularly
    significant impact on the health and safety of
    precarious workers (e.g., Lingard Yesilyurt,
    2003 Mayhew, 2002 Mayhew Quinlan, 2001
    Quinlan, Mayhew, Bohle, 2001)
  • Precarious workers are less likely to file
    compensation claims (Lippel, 2006) - contributes
    to invisibility
  • In seasonal and insecure industries, anxiety
    about job loss is exacerbated by the fact that
    time off on compensation does not count towards
    EI eligibility -- result Jobs or Health Mentality

Lesson from the margins
  • Work is part of a larger social-ecological system
  • Globally, precarious work is becoming
    increasingly common- mens jobs are becoming more
    like womens
  • Research on restructuring, work precarity and OHS
    reminds us that our exposure assessments need to
    extend beyond measuring allergens, chemicals,
    ergonomic stressors and demand and control to
    social power exposure assessments.
  • Social power includes power over and power to
  • It influences not only outcomes but also whether
    a problem gets on the agenda or is even
    understood to be a problem

Questions or comments?