Latino Workers Disproportionately Likely to be Injured in Construction Accidents in NYC

A review of government statistics from the last eight years demonstrates not only that Latino workers represent a much higher percentage of all workers in the construction industry than their share of the total New York City population would indicate but also that, within that industry, they suffer a much greater share of the fatal injuries.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) inspectors investigating workplace injuries are required to note the ethnic background of the injured workers. A recent report by the Center for Popular Democracy (“Center”), based on OSHA’s compiled data, shows that 74% of fatal falls by construction workers in New York City involved Latino workers. This compares to the 41% percentage of construction workers whom the Census Bureau identifies as Latino. In Queens and Brooklyn, the disparity is even more significant as 88% and 87% of the fatal falls which occurred in those respective boroughs occurred to Latinos and/or immigrant workers.

Also, the chances that a Latino or immigrant construction worker is likely to die from a fatal construction fall are higher when that worker is employed by a non-union company. 86% of Latino and/or immigrant fatalities from a fall from an elevation in New York involved individuals working for a non-union employer. Focus groups convened to address the issue indicate that such workers fear retaliation if they voice concerns about safety matters at their work sites. Advocates at the Center contend that this reluctance on the part of workers to raise safety concerns contribute to these disparities.

On a national basis, the percentage of fatal injuries to Latinos in the construction field has dropped. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fatal work injuries among Hispanic or Latino worker nationally fell to 708 in 2012 from 749 in 2011, a decrease of 5 percent. Of the 708 fatal work injuries incurred by Hispanic or Latino workers nationwide, 454 (or 64 percent) involved foreign-born workers. The divergence in the trend for New York workers and construction workers throughout the country raises important issues concerning the treatment of Hispanic or Latino workers in New York.

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