It was at a recent Latino worker health and safety summit in Houston that Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis revealed a grim statistic – each day in the U.S. 14 workers are killed by simply doing their jobs. That translates into roughly 5,000 fatal workplace accidents each year.
Overwhelmingly represented among the injured and killed, Solis noted in a 2010 Houston Chronicle editorial, are Latino workers.
Our injury attorneys in Charlotte know that undocumented workers, particularly Latinos, often take on some of the state’s most dangerous jobs, and they do so with the least amount of schooling regarding workplace hazards and workplace safety.
Couple this with a language barrier that makes effective communication challenging, and discrimination common, and these workers are among the least protected (and among the least aware that the law protects them) of any demographic in our labor force.
Considering that a recent Pew Hispanic Center survey ranked North Carolina ninth in the country for undocumented residents, what at first glance seems a national issue really hits much closer to home. Currently it is estimated that there are 350,000 undocumented workers living and working in North Carolina, the bulk of them Hispanic.
At the Houston summit, Solis noted that the Department of Labor is hoping to change the odds for Latino workers. “Our focus at this summit is ensuring that all workers understand they have a right to a safe workplace, that they know what hazards they might face on the job, and that they have a clear sense of how a safe workplace is supposed to look,” she said.
They have a right, Solis said, to contact OSHA, or talk to their boss about unsafe working conditions. They have a right to safety equipment and to proper training. They have a right to pursue any of these avenues without fear of retaliation. Perhaps most important, Solis said, “every worker needs to know that he or she has the right to come home alive at the end of the day.”
Two-days of workshops primarily targeted Latino worker safety issues, and bilingual educational efforts regarding rights of workers and responsibilities of business owners. “Far too many Latino workers have needlessly lost their lives just trying to earn a living, and it must stop,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels.
It is his hope that summit will “shine a spotlight on the hazards and challenges faced by the vulnerable sector of the nation’s workforce so we can begin crafting new, badly needed strategies to prevent thousands of injuries and deaths every year.”
For Carolina workers stricken with a work-related illness or injury, ourworkers’ compensation attorneys in Charlotte, Spartanburg and Asheville know that recovery and adjustment can be a lifelong battle. If you have been injured, or someone you love has been injured or succumbed to a work-related illness anywhere across the Carolinas, call us at 1-800-887-1965 or contact our law offices online to discuss your rights.