WIEGO Social Protection Programme Occupational Health and Safety & Domestic Work: A synthesis of research findings from Brazil and Tanzania
Research reports, working paper
The research study on OHS and domestic workers had two main aims. The first aim was to understand what health and safety problems domestic workers themselves prioritize. Domestic workers know best about the problems they face–they are the experts on their own working conditions, and in any project seeking to understand more about those conditions, it is important to start by talking to the workers themselves. The second aim was to find out more about OHS regulation in Tanzania and Brazil and to see what type of interactions domestic workers had with state authorities around health and safety.
In Brazil, the research was carried out at the end of 2009, and at the end of 2010 in Tanzania. In both countries, researchers used the focus group method, where groups of workers come together to be interviewed. In Brazil, researchers worked through Sindoméstico, a union of domestic workers.
In Tanzania, researchers worked with the Conservation, Hotel, Domestic and Allied Workers Union (CHODAWU), which also organizes domestic workers. In total, seven domestic workers participated in the study in Brazil, and 20 participated in Tanzania. All of the Brazilian workers were women, and in Tanzania, 18 of the 20 participants were women. In Tanzania, we used two interesting ways of gathering information from the workers. The first of these methods is called “hazard cards,” which are flashcards using pictures and words to describe common health and safety hazards. The second method called the “health checklist.” People are often hesitant to talk about their bodies and health concerns when they are being interviewed with a group of people they do not know well. In order to get around this problem, some researchers use what is known as a “body map,” where workers are asked to draw their bodies and then map their illnesses and injuries onto the drawing.