According to officials, a 34-year-old immigrant construction worker was killed in a horrific forklift accident while working on a Queens’ construction site last Tuesday. Sadly, this particular construction site is no stranger to safety-related problems.
In fact, a partial stop-work order was issued last September for this site after concrete sitting on plywood collapsed and a worker fell an entire story from the 8th floor to the 7th. And even though the site was under an active stop-work order at the time of the most recent accident, it technically didn’t prohibit workers from storing materials there.
The victim, an immigrant from Ecuador, and another construction worker were moving windows with a forklift when the accident occurred. While the accident is still being investigated, WABC-TV is reporting that the victim was standing on the back of the forklift when he hit his head on a low-clearance ceiling. Tragically, the construction worker died at the scene.
Are immigrant construction workers at risk?
Unfortunately, this recent fatal accident is simply more evidence that immigrant workers are often at greater risk when working construction. In fact, a report by Crain’s New York Business from just last year found that the immigrant workers accounted for most of New York City’s constructed-related deaths.
For example, after examining data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the report found that 18 of the 25 workers (72 percent) who died while working construction in 2015 were foreign-born, and most of those were from Latin America, including five from Mexico.
Immigrant workers have rights too
Many theories have been proffered as why immigrants are more prone to injury, including that they often find work on non-union construction sites, or possibly that employers take advantage of foreign-born workers since some they believe that immigrant workers are less likely to report dangerous work conditions.
The one thing immigrant workers need to remember, however, is that injured construction workers have rights in New York, regardless of their country of origin or immigrant status. Simply put, the law protects all construction workers, including immigrant and undocumented individuals.