Work Should Not Hurt You: Reduction of Hazardous Exposures in Small Businesses Through a Community Health Worker Intervention


This project aims to reduce negative health outcomes in small businesses that primarily employ high-risk Latino workers by characterizing their exposures to hazardous chemicals and assessing if a community health worker (CHW) intervention is effective at decreasing these exposures. Although preventable by definition, occupational disease and injuries are leading causes of death in the United States, with a disproportionate burden faced by Latinos. Small businesses pose a particular risk. They are more likely to employ low-wage Latino workers, and often use hazardous solvents including volatile organic chemicals that can cause asthma, cancer, cardiovascular, and neurological disease; yet their workers lack access to culturally and linguistically appropriate occupational health and pollution prevention information due to economic, physical, and social barriers. CHW-led interventions and outreach in Latino communities have documented increased access to health care and health education and reduced workplace exposures among farmworkers. CHWs are an innovative method to bridge the gap between these small business communities and other stakeholders. The proposed project will capitalize on established partnerships between the University of Arizona, the Sonora Environmental Research Institute, Inc. and the El Rio Community Health Center. A community-engaged research framework will be used to complete the following specific aims: 1) quantify and identify exposures to hazardous chemicals in the two high risk small business sectors common in our target area (i.e., auto repair shops and beauty salons); 2) work collaboratively with business owners, trade groups, workers and CHWs to design an industrial hygiene – enhanced CHW intervention tailored for each small business sector; and 3) conduct a cluster randomized trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the CHW intervention at reducing workplace exposures to volatile organic compounds and assess which factors led to successful utilization of exposure control strategies in both male and female-dominated businesses. Businesses will be randomized to either an intervention or delayed intervention group, both of which will receive incentives to participate including worksite health screenings. CHWs will work closely with business owners and employees to select and implement exposure-strategies appropriate for their worksite using a menu of complementary strategies of varying complexity and cost. This innovative project has the potential to directly reduce occupational health disparities through a CHW intervention that moves beyond providing occupational health education. The intervention will overcome current barriers by helping marginalized Latino workers and small business owners who may have limited education, literacy, and computer skills to understand the hazards associated with their work, and will empower them to have greater control over their occupational exposures, with the ultimate goal of preventing occupational disease and reducing health disparities.

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Other
    • Masking: Quadruple (Participant, Care Provider, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: December 2022


  • Other: Industrial Hygiene-Enhance Community Health Worker Intervention
    • The intervention will be derived from audits and exposure assessments and focus groups with workers and owners in the same business types (excluded from the trial) conducted in an earlier part of the study, as well as a community advisory group (e.g., Hispanic Chamber of Commerce) . From this, we will generate educational materials specific for each small business sector. We will provide the CHWs with a list of industry-specific control options along with potential cost savings and benefits. For example, EPA estimates a cost saving of $13,000 per year for auto body shops that switch to the high-velocity low-pressure spray guns. Each list will be a comprehensive menu of options that contain multiple control measures including simple controls, such as keeping the lids on the solvent containers.

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Experimental: Intervention Group
    • The intervention group will receive the IH-enhanced CHW intervention before (~3 months) the other arm (Delayed Intervention Group).
  • Other: Delayed Intervention Group
    • The delayed intervention group will receive the IH-enhanced CHW intervention after (~3 months) the other arm (Intervention Group).

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • Change in Volatile Organic Chemical Concentrations from Pre- to Post-Intervention
    • Time Frame: 6 months
    • The primary outcome is the change in average total volatile organic chemical exposures for each business from pre- to post- intervention.

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • workers or owners of small businesses in select sectors (e.g., beauty salons, auto shops) in target zip codes in southern metropolitan Tucson, Arizona

Exclusion Criteria

  • age less than 18 years or people not employed in targeted sectors

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 18 Years

Maximum Age: N/A

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • University of Arizona
  • Collaborator
    • Sonora Environmental Research Institute, Inc.
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Sponsor
  • Overall Contact(s)
    • Nathan Lothrop, MS, 5203147971,

Citations Reporting on Results

Bellg AJ, Borrelli B, Resnick B, Hecht J, Minicucci DS, Ory M, Ogedegbe G, Orwig D, Ernst D, Czajkowski S; Treatment Fidelity Workgroup of the NIH Behavior Change Consortium. Enhancing treatment fidelity in health behavior change studies: best practices and recommendations from the NIH Behavior Change Consortium. Health Psychol. 2004 Sep;23(5):443-51.

Davidson KW, Goldstein M, Kaplan RM, Kaufmann PG, Knatterud GL, Orleans CT, Spring B, Trudeau KJ, Whitlock EP. Evidence-based behavioral medicine: what is it and how do we achieve it? Ann Behav Med. 2003 Dec;26(3):161-71.

Kraemer HC, Kuchler T, Spiegel D. Use and misuse of the consolidated standards of reporting trials (CONSORT) guidelines to assess research findings: comment on Coyne, Stefanek, and Palmer (2007). Psychol Bull. 2009 Mar;135(2):173-8; discussion 179-82. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.135.2.173.

Campbell MK, Elbourne DR, Altman DG; CONSORT group. CONSORT statement: extension to cluster randomised trials. BMJ. 2004 Mar 20;328(7441):702-8.

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