Construction Work is Getting More Dangerous & Deadly, But Only for Latinos

The risk of dying on the job has increased for Latino construction workers in the recent years, according to a BuzzFeed News analysis.

The fatality rate among Latino construction workers rose by 5% after the housing bust bottomed out in 2010. Between 2010 and 2013, the number of fatalities among Latinos in the construction industry rose from 181 to 231, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The number of deaths increased in the industry overall by almost 3%, but Latinos accounted for this rise entirely. During these same three years, deaths for non-Latino construction workers fell by nearly 5%.

Although the construction industry has gotten safer over the last 10 years, Latino workers are dying at higher rates than non-Latino workers. However, Latino construction workers have benefited from this increase in construction work safety. In the same period of 10 years, their fatality rate fell from 13.5 deaths per 100,000 workers to 9.8.

Unfortunately, that trend has begun to reverse in recent years for Latinos. More workers are joining the booming construction industry and Latinos have crowded into the more dangerous segments of the industry.

Several experts have proposed explanations for these recent trends: Latinos in the construction industry are very frequently immigrants, many of them undocumented. For these workers, construction is a different and more dangerous world than it is for the rest of the workforce. Immigrant workers are concentrated in non-union jobs with smaller contractors – the least regulated portion of the industry. Several recent studies in New York have found that violations are found more often in small contractors than by large, unionized employers. Smaller employers are very unlikely to have their job sites inspected. OSHA is chronically understaffed, having just under 2,000 inspectors – enough to visit every job site in the country about once every 139 years, according to an AFL-CIO report.

In November 2014, Delfino Jesús Velázquez, a Mexican immigrant working for a Staten Island construction company, died in an accident at a car dealership he was helping to demolish. Velázquez’s death immediately ignited outrage in Staten Island’s community of day laborers, who say that the accident, like many of those that befall immigrant construction workers, was preventable. Velázquez’s employer, a contractor named Formica Construction, did not have any valid work permits for the site, as reflected in records from New York City’s Department of Buildings. In 2007, another immigrant worker for the same company died in a collapsed trench. Both these deaths represent the disproportionate cost borne by Latino workers in the construction industry.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed on the jobsite, contact us for a free consultation today. We’re here for you.