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Latino Construction Workers in NYC Face Disproportionate Risk of Injury and Death

Source: American Community Survey  “2006-2010 Employment Opportunities Tabulation”

Source: American Community Survey
“2006-2010 Employment Opportunities Tabulation”

In a 2015 report entitled The Price of Life, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health found that Latino and immigrant workers face a disproportionate number of deadly risks in the construction industry. Although they make up only 25 percent of NYC construction workers, Latinos suffered 38 percent of on-the-job fatalities in 2012. For the years 2003 through 2011, 60 percent of OSHA-investigated construction fatalities involved Latinos or immigrants. Nationally, Latino construction deaths increased from 182 in 2010 to 233 in 2013. What accounts for these higher risks?

The study cites numerous factors at play:

  • Lack of safety training
  • Lack of English proficiency
  • Greater willingness to take nonunion employment
  • Hesitance to speak out against hazardous conditions

The study admits that in-depth information on fatal accidents is hard to come by and relies heavily on a single bad actor, the Formica Construction Company, whose misdeeds in 2014 led to two workers’ deaths. The report’s authors feel, however, that Formica’s behavior is illustrative of a larger pattern of disregard for Latino worker safety within the New York construction industry.

At Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson, we understand the pitfalls of policymakers relying too heavily on anecdotal evidence. But our practice has brought to our attention similar cases where construction companies performed work without a valid permit, violated OSHA regulations, and exposed workers to unacceptable risk. These companies tend to hire nonunion laborers, including off-the-books workers who are afraid that objecting to unsafe conditions would put them out of a job. The majority of these workers are Latino.

Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson represents injured construction workers throughout the greater New York area. If you or a worker you love has suffered a serious injury, call 888.746.8212 or contact our firm online to schedule a free consultation.

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