Too afraid to squeal: immigrants under-report accidents for lots of reasons

"We need to find solutions for the number of immigrant workers who fear reporting injuries in the workplace…"

That was the call to action by a second-generation Romanian guy at an event I attended recently; about young people were gathered (with a combined background of some 40 countries and 50 dialects).

This young man was actually thinking of his own immigrant parents - both of whom work in manufacturing - when he made that comment.

The other young people in the crowd quickly agreed with his observation - that business owners and supervisors are ignoring the issue of under-reporting by immigrant workers!

Immigrant workers often under-report accidents or occupational illness because

  • they don't feel confident in their English language skills
  • they're afraid of losing their jobs
  • they're afraid of losing their immigration status
  • they're afraid of inadequate healthcare coverage
  • they want to reap the benefits of their company's incentive program rewarding low rates of accidents

As an employer, you can move away from a fear-based workforce for your immigrant workers, without spending much money, by

  • exchange cultural knowledge in an employee's first 90 days on the job
  • recognize "cultural champions" in the workplace who liaise between new hires and their supervisor to facilitate communication
  • reward the best written suggestion each quarter for improvements to health and safety at work and at home. (The reward must be open to all workers.)
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