Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Occupational health and safety practices of Vietnamese American nail salon workers
by Edwards, Lori A., Dr.Ph., The Johns Hopkins University, 2012, 264; 3579504
Abstract (Summary)

Vietnamese American nail salon workers, a growing and vulnerable population, comprise nearly half of all nail salon workers in the United States. They are exposed on a daily basis to several occupational health risks—including ergonomic stressors related to the tasks they must perform; as well as chemicals, many of which have known toxic properties. Nail salon workers have reported health symptoms that may be related to work exposures, and recent studies have detected concentrations of airborne contaminants that exceed recommended safe levels for ambient air. Recognizing this occupational health issue, government and advocacy groups have taken the initiative to develop best practice guidelines to protect the health and safety of nail salon workers, focusing specifically on Vietnamese workers in this industry. This study evaluated adherence to these guidelines and identified factors that promote or inhibit their adoption.

Vietnamese American nail salon workers are subject to health disparities due to cultural factors and lower socioeconomic status. They are known to be difficult to reach for a variety of reasons, including language barriers, and also because they tend to work long hours in isolated small businesses, and they often do not cite their health care as a priority. Our research, therefore, has been based on community-based participatory research methods. Using this approach, in partnership with Vietnamese community organizations, we conducted a cross-sectional survey of Vietnamese nail salon workers.

In addition to looking at the frequency and contexts of policies and communication strategies recommended by the best practice guidelines, this study examined predictors of the use of protective equipment; specifically: tables with ventilation, trashcans with self-closing lids, comfortable hand tools, and three features related to chairs. The potential promoters and barriers to their use represented components of the integrative model of behavioral prediction as the conceptual framework.

The sample size was 176 Vietnamese American nail salon workers whose ages ranged from 18 years to 61 years. The majority were female (80%), and 20% were owners or managers of salons. A significant proportion rated their financial status as "getting by" or "having few resources," and 37% did not have health insurance.

With the exception of back-supported chairs, the strongest predictors of use were training about the equipment and the belief that it would protect workers' health. For equipment that minimized chemical exposures (trashcans and tables with ventilation), workers were 4.5 to 7.4 times more likely to use these if they were trained about them. If they believed that the equipment would protect their health, they were 6.2 to 7.2 times more likely to use it. For ergonomic practices, workers were 13.5 times more likely to use hand tools if they believed that they protected their health, and they were 3.5 times more likely to use this equipment if they had been trained about it. For chairs that swivel and chairs that are height adjustable, training about chairs was a significant predictor of users compared to non users. Owner/managers differed in their beliefs regarding the importance of materials in Vietnamese versus in English, despite the fact that almost all participants completed their surveys in Vietnamese.

Community-based organizations are in the best position to access members of the community, and, as such, they should play a vital role in delivering training, as well as in developing innovative methods of delivering health and safety information. Our survey found that 60% of our population would prefer to receive health and safety information through Internet sources. Linking with license renewal, perhaps delivered by cosmetology schools or through Internet courses, may be a means of reaching the widest audience.

Policy changes should include proof of continuing education as a requirement for license renewal. We found that 45% of our population supported this, and 65% believed this policy measure would protect the health of workers. Additionally, legislation that would require salons to follow those recommended health and safety practices aimed at worker health—in contrast to only client health—may need to be promulgated across states.

We also propose revising hazard communication methods to include major revisions in the use of chemical information. For example, Material Safety Data Sheets are often not in Vietnamese and may be incomprehensible to these workers. There is a growing interest in protecting the health of this workforce by facilitating adherence to best practices. Policy approaches at the organizational level and at the regulatory level will ultimately protect the health of this vulnerable working population.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Agnew, Jacqueline
School: The Johns Hopkins University
School Location: United States -- Maryland
Source: DAI-B 75/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Occupational health, Surgery
Keywords: Ergonomics, Health safety practices and personal protective equipment, Nail salon workers, Nail salons, Vietnamese Americans
Publication Number: 3579504
ISBN: 978-1-303-76923-8
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