Young, Hispanic immigrant construction workers employed by small companies have the highest risk of suffering an on-the-job injury. That’s according to a new study conducted by NIOSH and the American Society of Safety Engineers.
The agencies were interested in examining the safety of individuals with overlapping vulnerabilities. A number of factors contribute to the likelihood of an injury, such as race, class, gender, the growth of the temporary workforce and the weaknesses of companies with 20 or fewer workers.
The report identifies three groups – Hispanic immigrants, small business employees and young workers that, separately, have an elevated risk of job-related injury and poor health outcomes when an accident does occur. When a worker shares all of these traits, the researchers found, the risk of injury is even higher.
An example of how this vulnerability might play out in an actual scenario was explained this way: Small employers are more likely to hire younger workers with less experience because the won’t have to pay them as much. If that younger worker is an immigrant, he or she may be afraid of deportation for reporting any conditions he or she suspects is unsafe. We also know construction is one of the most dangerous injuries of all occupations and small businesses comprise 90 percent of all construction firms.
In 2013, there were nearly 800 construction workers killed on-the-job, which is more than any other industry sector. It accounts for nearly one-fifth of all work-related deaths every year. It’s also well-known the industry is particularly hazardous to vulnerable workers.
Researchers presented several case studies to illustrate how this combination of risk factors play out in the real world.
Case Study No. 1 involved two brothers, ages 15 and 16, hired to do trench work on a construction crew. Both Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. just over a year, they didn’t speak much English and falsified documents on their application indicating they were each 22. They received no orientation or training. The crew leader gave instructions in English. The second day of work, the two were in the trench when it collapsed on top of them. The crew leader hadn’t instructed them to be in the trench at that time, so it was unclear why they were there. The two both died of their injuries.
In Case Study No. 2, a 16-year-old immigrant from Mexico went with relatives to work at a condo development construction site.But while working on a platform, he fell 10 feet and hit his head on concrete. The crew leader instructed the workers to take the teen to a local hospital, but he was instead taken to the drug store, given some headache medicine and sent home. When he began vomiting and was unable to walk, his family took him to the crew leader’s home, and the crew leader drove him to the hospital, where he died an hour later. The project coordinator was not told of the death, and didn’t find out until four days afterward, when news reporters came to the job site.
These are tragedies, but they aren’t at all uncommon.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration recommends training for workers that stresses the gravity of workplace hazards and teaches them to understand such injuries and illnesses are predictable and can be prevented. Courses should also teach workers to identify work-related hazards, how to recognize emergencies and how to respond appropriately. Workers would also be given a clear chain of command with which to identify work-related hazards in order to effectively communicate potential danger and prevent accidents.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Overlapping Vulnerabilities: The Occupational Health and Safety of Young Immigrant Workers in Small Construction, May 2015, NIOSH and ASSE Report
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Devine v. Great Divide Insurance Company: Workers’ Compensation Appeals, May 23, 2015, Charlotte Work Injury Attorney Blog