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Report: Immigrant construction workers are often the most at risk

A few months ago, we told you about a report issued by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) that found that construction deaths in New York hit a 14-year high in 2016. This annual report, which was aptly titled Deadly Skyline, provided an in-depth analysis on construction fatalities throughout the state.

While most of the report focused on construction deaths in general, there was one section near the end that called out a significant fact: Certain groups of construction workers, namely immigrants, are killed at higher rates than other construction workers.

In fact, Latino workers are often the most at risk, the report found. For example, the report noted:

  • In 2015, Latino workers were 84 percent more likely than non-Latinos to die while working on construction sites with egregious (willful) OSHA violations.
  • In 2015, Latinos made up 57 percent of all construction falls, even though they only account for roughly 30 percent of the construction industry.
  • From 2012 to 2016, there was a 17.5 percent increase in the number of Latino workers who died on the job in New York State.

Why are fatality rates higher among Latino construction workers?

Well, this isn't an easy question to answer. Some believe the increased fatality rate among immigrant workers may be linked to the fact that many work on non-union construction projects.

Others believe that employers may be taking advantage of these workers' undocumented statuses, knowing that they are less likely to complain about dangerous work conditions out of fear of possible deportation. Even the recent NYCOSH report called this out as a possible issue when it stated:

Latino and/or immigrant workers are a significant part of the construction workforce, and are repeatedly exploited by employers who willfully violate safety and health protections on the job. Immigrant workers may be less likely to report violations out of fear of retaliation.

Regardless of the reasons for the increased risk to immigrant workers, however, the one thing that these workers need to remember is that they still have rights, regardless of their citizenship status. In fact, all injured construction workers may be able to seek compensation for construction-related injuries. Quite simply, the law protects all construction workers, including undocumented workers.

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