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Statistics Show Sharp Rise In Hispanic Worker Deaths

Statistics Show Sharp Rise In Hispanic Worker Deaths

Posted By The Dunnion Law Firm || 23-Jul-2009

The number of Hispanic workers who die on the job has risen, even as the overall number of workplace deaths has declined, according to federal statistics.

Hispanic worker deaths increased from 533 in 1992 to 937 in 2007 — a 76% jump. In the same period, total fatalities in all jobs nationwide fell from 6,217 to 5,657, according to the data. The 2007 tally, the latest available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, followed a record 990 Hispanic deaths in 2006.

Last year, officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Dallas investigated 50 Hispanic workplace deaths in Texas alone, according to OSHA figures. So far this year, they've investigated 21 fatalities, including three workers who fell 11 stories from a collapsed scaffolding last month in Austin.

"I am particularly concerned about our Hispanic workforce, as Latinos often work low-wage jobs and are more susceptible to injuries in the workplace than other workers," U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told USA TODAY. "There can be no excuses for negligence in protecting workers, not even a language barrier."

More Hispanics in the workforce can account for some of the increase in deaths, said Peg Seminario, safety and health director of the AFL-CIO. In 1998, Hispanics represented 10.4% of the U.S. labor force, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2007 they accounted for 14%.

Lack of training, poor communication skills and exploitation of workers also lead to accidents and deaths, Seminario said. Hispanic workers have fallen off roofs, been crushed under heavy machinery and run over by trucks, according to workers' rights advocates, such as the Austin-based Workers Defense Project. Austin alone has reported four Hispanic deaths this year.

Last month, OSHA pledged to bolster the number of inspectors in Texas in response to the growing number of construction-related deaths, more than half of them Hispanic.

Workers without legal documentation to be in the U.S. are less inclined to join a union, which helps protect workers, or protest when conditions seem dangerous, said Raj Nayak of the California-based National Employment Law Project.

"They're doing the most dangerous work for longer hours," Nayak said.

Jose Omar Puerto, 19, from Honduras, was repairing a roof on an Austin apartment building in 2007 when his aluminum ladder became entangled in electrical wires. He was electrocuted and killed, his sister, Marta Puerto, said. His company paid for the funeral and the body's return to Honduras, she said. The family received no further compensation.

"It's an injustice how my brother died," Marta Puerto said. "There are a lot of cases like this, not just my brother's. We need better laws to protect Hispanics."

Some of the fatalities among Hispanics could have been avoided with proper training, said Michael Cunningham of the Texas State Building and Construction Trades Council, a labor consortium.

"No matter what country they're from, whether they're here legally or illegally, someone should make sure they have the proper training," he said.

Contact a California Personal Injury Attorney

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident like this or another type of accident, don’t guess about your rights or what you deserve as compensation. Call the Dunnion law Firm at 1-800-386-6466 for an immediate free consultation or submit the contact information to our firm. We can help you!

Categories: Wrongful Death