The headlines say it all: “Young Hispanic Construction Workers Most Vulnerable in U.S.,” “Hispanics Most Vulnerable to Construction Injuries,” and “Latino Worker Mortality Rate Rises; Industry Disagrees with Solutions.
Statistics show that Hispanics and Latinos working in construction in New York City and across the country are more likely than their co-workers to be injured or killed on the job. Not only that, but the death rate of Hispanic and Latino workers has actually increased in recent years, while the death rate of other workers has decreased.
It is a well-known fact that Hispanic and Latino workers represent a large and disproportionate segment of the workforce in the construction industry. As an example, while Latinos represented about 16 percent of the entire U.S. workforce in 2014, they accounted for more than one-quarter of the nation’s construction jobs. However, these numbers do not explain why Hispanic and Latino workers face higher rates of injury and death.
So, what’s the explanation?
Why are Hispanic and Latino construction workers more likely to be injured or killed on the job?
Experts cite three main factors that may explain why Hispanics and Latinos are at greater risk than construction workers from other ethnic backgrounds:
- Limited access to training and assistance: Spanish-speaking construction workers often have limited access to safety training. Although federal law requires construction companies to provide training in Spanish to Spanish-speaking employees, many employers do not meet this obligation. In addition, when these employees have questions at the construction site, they often cannot get the help they need from inspectors, foremen, and co-workers who only understand and speak English.
- More dangerous jobs: Hispanics and Latinos working in construction may be more willing to take dangerous jobs where they are at greater risk of serious or fatal injury. Immigrant workers who focus only on sending money home often take high-risk jobs. In many cases, Spanish-speaking workers and undocumented immigrants may feel that they cannot voice their concerns about hazardous working conditions.
- Little emphasis on safety by smaller construction companies: Finally, statistics show that Hispanic or Latino immigrant workers are more likely to work for smaller construction companies, usually specializing in the residential sector. These companies often do not have the resources, policies, and procedures to ensure the safety of their employees, at least not to the same extent as larger business operations.
There’s no excuse for putting lives at risk
Of course, none of these factors is an excuse for construction companies to put employees’ lives at risk. Unfortunately, evidence suggests that some construction companies take advantage of undocumented and non-English-speaking immigrant workers, putting them to work in dangerous jobs at minimum wages and without adequate training.
If you or someone you know has been injured on a construction site call Gorayeb & Associates at 646-906-9897 for a free consultation.