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Are Latinos More Likely To Suffer From Workplace Injuries?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) establishes and monitors safety standards in the workplace. All workers regardless of age, race or ethnic background should be afforded the same safe working environment. This may not be the case for all individuals. In a press release detailing a recent tragedy in Queens, the question of whether or not Latinos are at a higher risk of injury or even death has been raised.

The accident was reported by the Wall Street Journal on January 10, 2011. According to this report, three workers were seriously injured on a construction site in Queens, while a fourth man was killed. The man who was killed was a 26 year old Latino married father of two, with a baby on the way. Sadly, this accident may have been prevented. Although this specific accident is still under investigation, it is reported that the same site has received six safety violations since 2009.

What about this incident leads us to wonder if Latinos are at a higher risk of injury? As stated in the press release, “Unfortunately, Latino construction-worker injuries and deaths remain common in the construction industry. The BLS reports that workplace accidents killed 668 Latinos in 2009, accounting for 15 percent of all job-related fatalities. Latinos endure a workplace fatality rate of 3.7 per 100,000, the highest of any ethnic group.”

As a society we have to ask ourselves why this is happening? Experts believe there may be several reasons for the higher rate of accidents and injuries suffered by Latinos in the workplace. Language barriers and immigration status may lead to communication problems which result in a higher percentage of accidents which then go unreported. It is important for all workers, regardless of age, race or ethnic background to understand their right to work in a safe environment, something which may not be happening with Latino workers on construction sites within the city and across the nation.