Older workers needed for UW study on worker safety during COVID-19 pandemic


Restaurant server at table

Food service workers over 50 are invited to participate in this UW study.International Monetary Fund/Flickr

Public health researchers have learned a lot about how the pandemic affected workers and exacerbated existing health disparities that exist in many communities. However, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the experience of workers deemed essential in the food industry and who were at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, such those working in grocery stores, restaurants, delivery and factories.

To find out how food workers were or were not protected and how they can be better protected going forward, researchers at the University of Washington and Indiana University are seeking to interview food industry workers who are 50 or older and live in either state. Through this study of older food industry workers, researchers are aiming to find ways to create more protections for this workforce.

“Employers play a big role in worker safety and health, and can be a valuable partner. In conjunction with policymakers, we can all work to keep employees and the people they come in contact with safe,” said Anjum Hajat, a lead investigator in the study and associate professor in the UW Department of Epidemiology.

“What are we doing to protect our essential workers? Moving forward we need to consider essential workers, especially those whose voices aren’t often heard. This issue isn’t just about workers – businesses also have a lot at stake. If they’re losing longtime employees, that has a negative impact on the business. So in addition to being the right thing to do, there are other reasons for employers to want to better protect their workforce,” said Hajat.

To complete a brief online survey, which will determine eligibility for the 90-minute phone interview, see here. Participants will receive a $40 gift card for their time.

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