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Immigrant, Latino Construction Workers at Bigger Risk of Death from Falls

Photo  by Ron Cogswell, Flickr/Creative Commons

A disproportionate number of Latinos and immigrants are disproportionately killed in fall accidents in New York, according to a new study by the Center for Popular Democracy, because they work in construction in relatively high numbers; are concentrated in smaller, nonunion firms; and are over-represented in the contingent labor pool.

According to Fatal Inequality: Workplace Safety Eludes Construction Workers of Color in New York State:

  • In the state of New York, Latinos and immigrants suffered 60% of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-investigated fatal falls from elevation fatalities.
  • In New York City, 74% of victims of fatal falls were Latinos and immigrants.
  • 86% of Latinos and immigrants killed in falls from an elevation in the state were working for nonunion employers.

Latino construction workers said they feared retaliation from their employers if they raised concerns about safety conditions. The report also points to an underfunded and understaffed OSHA and penalties for safety violations that are “so small that employers can see them as just an incidental cost of doing business.”   

The report warns that matters could get worse because the construction and insurance industries are proposing an amendment to weaken the state’s Scaffold Law, which requires owners and contractors to provide appropriate and necessary equipment, such as safe hoists, ladders and scaffolds. The law holds owners and contractors fully liable if their failure to follow the law causes a worker to be injured or killed. It would shift responsibility for workplace safety from owners and contractors, who control site safety, to workers, who do not.

You can read an executive summary of the report here or download the entire report here.

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