Kramer DM, McMillan K, Gross E, Bradley M, Holness DL. From Awareness to Action: The Community of Sarnia Mobilizes to Protect its Workers from Occupational Disease. New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy 2015;25(3):377-410.
An exploratory qualitative case study investigated how different sectors of a highly industrialized community mobilized in the 1990s to help workers exposed to asbestos. For this study, 30 key informants including representatives from industry, workers, the community, and local politicians participated in semi-structured interviews and focus groups. The analysis was framed by a “Dimensions of Community Change” model. The informants highlighted the importance of raising awareness, and the need for leadership, social and organizational networks, acquiring skills and resources, individual and community power, holding shared values and beliefs, and perseverance. We found that improvements in occupational health and safety came from persistently communicating a clearly defined issue (“asbestos exposure causes cancer”), and having an engaged community that collaborated with union leadership. Notable successes included stronger occupational health services, a support group for workers and widows, the fast-tracking of compensation for workers exposed to asbestos, and a reduction in hazardous emissions.