As the nation’s total number of workplace deaths has declined, the number of Hispanic workers who have died on the job has risen by 76 percent, according to newly released federal statistics.
In 1992, the number of Hispanic worker deaths was 533. That number increased to 937 in 2007. During that same period, total nationwide work-related fatalities declined from 6,217 to 5,657. The data, the latest available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, followed a record 990 Hispanic deaths in 2006.
Work related deaths have been particularly worrisome in the state of Texas. In 2008, officials at the Dallas office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated 50 Hispanic workplace deaths.
While so far this year, 21 fatalities have been investigated, including a scaffold collapse at the construction site of the 21 Rio condos in Austin. All three workers on the scaffold were killed.
The increase in Latino workers dying on the job can be attributed to more Hispanics in the workforce, said Peg Seminario, safety and health director of the AFL-CIO. In 1998, Hispanics represented 10.4 percent of the U.S. labor force. And in 2007, they accounted for 14 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The agency cites poor communication skills, lack of training, and exploitation of workers as factors that lead to workplace accidents and fatalities.
“I am particularly concerned about our Hispanic workforce, as Latinos often work low-wage jobs and are more susceptible to injuries in the workplace than other workers,” U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told USA Today. "There can be no excuses for negligence in protecting workers, not even a language barrier." #