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Fatal construction accidents: are immigrants more at risk?

Issues relating to the eligibility for workers' compensation of construction employees who are injured in on-the-job accidents are one of the themes of this blog. In our September 20 post, for example, we discussed the lag in compliance with fall protection standards among many construction employers.

Scaffolding collapses are also a significant source of danger for construction workers. Such collapses can lead to fatal accidents, as can falls from heights and other conditions.

Because construction is such dangerous work, all construction workers are at risk of fatal construction accidents. But does the risk tend to be higher for immigrant workers and U.S.-born Hispanics than for other workers? In this post, we will discuss that issue.

Of course, the percentage of construction workers who are immigrants varies from place to place around the country. Immigration and employment patterns in the Baltimore area are part of a larger national data set. But is it true that an elevated death rate for construction workers may be closely connected to immigration status?

This appears to be the case in at least one area of the country. Consider the data from New York City. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was the source of data for a recent analysis of fatal falls in the New York City area from 2003 to 2011.

The analysis, conducted by a nonprofit group called the Center for Popular Democracy, found that nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of fatal construction falls in the New York City area involved either immigrants or U.S.-born Latino workers.

The next question, of course, is why immigrant workers were so disproportionately affected by fatal workplace accidents. It may be that immigrant workers are more likely to work for smaller contractors who fail to maintain adequate workplace protections. Clearly, however, lack of attention to safety protections comes at great cost in loss of life.

Source: Safety + Health, ""New York construction death rates highest among Latinos; immigrants: report," Oct. 30, 2013

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