“Why Do So Many Die?” That’s a very pressing question in light of the recent AFL-CIO 2012 Death on the Job Report. In fact, the statistics revealed in this latest study are more depressing than surprising. Hispanic employees continue to face higher risk of death in the workplace than any other group – a trend that’s been going strong for the last 20 years.
- AFL-CIO: In 2010, there were 142 Hispanic worker fatalities in California. Out of a total of 4690 workplace deaths in the US, 707 were Hispanic workers (15%)
- BLS: Fatal work injuries among Hispanic workers rose 3% nationwide in 2011 to 729. Almost 70% of these workers were foreign born from Mexico or points further south.
- EHS: Approximately one-third of Hispanic worker deaths occurred in the construction industry. Highway incidents and falls to a lower level are the most common causes of on-the-job fatalities (1992-2006)
- CDC: Younger Hispanic workers had a fatality rate (5.6 per 100,000) that was significantly higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white workers (3.3) and the rate for non-Hispanic black workers (2.3)
- Safety Center: The risk of fatality is highest in the construction industry, with nearly 1/3 of all fatal injuries occurring among Hispanic workers
This data highlights several key factors that may substantially increase risks for Hispanic workers:
- Prevalence of employment in higher risk industries
- Work eligibility and economic status that make negotiating for safer conditions difficult
- Inadequate knowledge of employment rights
- Inexperience associated with youth
- Pressure to perform work faster than is safe
- Lack of clear safety communication and training from employers
- Failure of supervisors to ensure all workers understand and follow safety protocols
Obviously, employers are in a position to greatly reduce the number of deaths among Hispanic workers in the coming years. Assessing and reducing injury hazards, providing personal protective equipment and ensuring workers receive safety training (and updates) in their first language can make a huge difference. However, these aren’t necessarily tasks that organizations can undertake without help. The CDC actually recommends that employers should be aided by health and safety practitioners in providing better guidance and tools to improve worker safety. It takes a team effort to create a work environment that protects all workers.