Construction Jobs Not Safe for Hispanics

By: DiversityWorking Press
Date Posted: January 25, 2015
News Source: The Nation

The BLS Occupational Handbook shows that the job outlook for construction laborers and helpers has a 25% projected growth, or faster than average, for the period 2012-2022.

These are jobs most sought after by Hispanic immigrants, especially the undocumented among them. However, positive though the outlook be, these are also jobs proven dangerous for them.

According to an analysis of federal safety data by Buzzfeed, “between 2010 and 2013, the number of deaths among Latinos in the construction industry rose from 181 to 231. The number of deaths also rose in the industry overall, from 774 to 796. But Latinos account for this rise entirely: during the same period, deaths for non-Latino construction workers fell from 593 to 565.”

Latinos and immigrants tend to work in low-wage, marginal jobs, often under extremely rough physical conditions, and safety risk comes with the territory. Meanwhile, systemic segregation in the labor force may fuel the erosion of labor conditions.

Studies have shown that there is a correlation between low wage jobs and safety. As Occupational Safety and Health Administration chief David Michaels told NBC News last year, “Workers in low wage jobs are at much greater risk of conditions that will make it impossible for them to live in a healthy way, to earn money for their family, to build middle class lives.”

When a worker is forced to take on a low wage job, in construction, because of his dire need to fend for himself and his family, chances are he is exposed to abuses from his employer, more so if one is an undocumented alien.

A recent report on worker fatalities in New York by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health found that in 2012, “Immigrant workers died disproportionately in construction”—a rate that reflected the heightened risks they faced due to language barriers, relatively low rates of unionization, and a tendency to be hired by “smaller construction firms and projects [that] were more likely to be cited for violations than the large firms that construct major high-rises and public projects.”

According to reports, what aggravates matters is many of these Hispanic construction workers do not know their rights. They also face the challenge of language difficulty.

Hence, there should be stricter regulations and enforcement of workplace safety rules, stiffer penalties for employers who violate labor laws. However, with so many poor and illegal Hispanics rushing to construction sites, and many small-time construction firms taking advantage of their vulnerability, more of them will continue risking their lives for meager pay.

Read the full article at The Nation

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