SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— While the industry gets safer overall, the number of Latino construction workers dying on the job is on the rise. According to data analyzed by BuzzFeed News, a construction site can be a much different and more dangerous place for a Latino worker for a variety of reasons, most having to do with their employers.
UC Berkeley Professor Harley Shaiken with the Center for Latin American Studies concurred with the data that it’s almost assuredly true that many of these construction workers are undocumented and have found work in some of the most dangerous areas of construction.
According to the data analysis, The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported between 2010 and 2013, the number of deaths among Latinos in the construction industry rose from 181 to 231. While there was an increase in deaths for the industry overall, the data notes that Latinos alone account for this rise.
“That feeds into the disproportionate rate at which these workers are dying and the larger numbers of death that are being recorded,” Shaiken said.
The jobs aren’t being filled by Americans and aren’t necessarily higher paying despite the risk involved.
“Many of these workers have few other alternatives, so they take what they can get and they’re very worried about any complaints, particularly on health and safety, because they don’t want to attract the attention of anything that can get them deported. Latino workers are paying an unusual price for that.”
Shaiken said the resources aren’t in place for the monitoring of unlicensed contractors and that it’s something that needs to be addressed.
“The OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) nationally has enough inspectors to inspect every worksite once every 139 years. It’s a combination of not enough inspectors and fines that have been low. Fatality on average attracts a fine of less than $10,000,” he said.
The unions have declined to get involved according to Shaiken and are typically part of the checks and balances of a workplace and add an extra layer of awareness and enforcement when it comes to health and safety issues.