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Protection of health and safety for domestic workers — Occupational health and safety

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Protection of health and safety for domestic workers

California recently created occupational health and safety guidelines for domestic workers.

Domestic workers perform essential services in the most intimate sphere of the home by providing clean, safe spaces for families to enjoy and by caring for children, seniors and those with illnesses or disabilities. Workers are often integrated into the daily rhythms and routines of households, enabling families to function and thrive, as housework is “the work that makes all other work possible” [Poo, 2015].

In 2017, the University of California Occupational Safety and Health Program (UCLA LOSH), in collaboration with the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and the California Domestic Workers Coalition (CDWC), released a study, Hidden Work, Hidden Pain: Injury Experiences of Domestic Workers in California. The report provided insight into the various occupational injuries and illnesses experienced by domestic workers such as housekeepers, childminders and caregivers. The report emphasized the need for all domestic workers to be included under California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (CalOSHA) protections.

Key findings from the report include that 51 percent of all survey respondents said they experienced pressure from their employer to work in hazardous conditions and an overwhelming majority of respondents (85 percent) described injuries leading to chronic back -, led to shoulder, arm or leg pain. In addition, more than half of the respondents continued to work, despite their chronic pain, out of financial necessity and fear of losing their jobs. In addition, the report highlighted the need for occupational safety and health protection to be extended to domestic workers.

Domestic workers in private homes encountered health and safety hazards similar to those found in other health care or service sector jobs. UCAL-LOSH survey respondents indicated that their work usually involved repetitive movements (81 per cent), lifting heavy objects (76 per cent), lifting children or care recipients (70 per cent) and exposure to cleaning chemicals (62 per cent) and biological hazards ( 79) involves percent). A number of respondents were also sexually harassed or assaulted (23 percent) while working. Many of these hazards are the same as those faced by workers performing similar tasks in more conventional work environments, such as nurses in hospitals or cleaners in hotels or office spaces.

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