A disproportional number of Latino construction workers in New York City die while on the job compared to their coworkers of other races, according to a new report.
From 2003 to 2011, three-fourths of construction workers who died were either U.S.-born Latinos or immigrants, according to a review of all of the fatal falls on the job investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an agency of the federal Labor Department. .
“The data we have demonstrates that Latinos and immigrants are more likely to die in these types of accidents,” Connie Razza, from the Center for Popular Democracy, which compiled the report, told the New York Daily News.
Construction safety advocates and a study by the New York State Trial Lawyers Association cited safety violations on job sites run by smaller, non-union contractors and an unwillingness by some undocumented workers to report violations as main reasons for the high number of deaths among Latino workers.
“Contractors aren’t taking simple steps to protect their workers,” said Razza. “They are not providing the training and the safety equipment that are required by law.”
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While New York may have a surprisingly high number of deaths of Latino construction workers, numbers nationwide for Hispanic deaths on the jobs are also greater than any other group.
OSHA reported that 749 Latino workers were killed from work-related injuries in 2011— more than 14 deaths a week or two Latino workers killed every single day of the year. While 12 percent of all fatal work injuries in 2011 involved contractor work, Latinos made up 28 percent of fatal work injuries among contractors — well above their 16 percent share of all fatal work injuries in 2011.
Advocacy groups in New York are working to combat any changes to the state’s scaffolding law, which organizations like Razza’s the Center for Popular Democracy say gives incentive to keep workplaces safe.
Contractors argue that the law, which holds owners and contractors who did not follow safety rules fully liable for workplace injuries and deaths, has caused their insurance costs to skyrocket.
New York lawmakers, however, has historically blocked any of the proposed changes to the law.
“All we’re looking for is the ability to have the same right as anybody else would in the American jurisprudence system,” said Louis J. Coletti, president and CEO of the Building Trades Employers' Association.