(PRWEB) December 06, 2013
An October 24, 2013 article in Fox News Latino (1) states that from 2003 to 2011, 75% of construction workers who died on the job were either U.S.-born Latinos or immigrants. According to data compiled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (2), Latino construction workers suffer significantly more fatalities than any other group, with two workers dying every single day of the year. In New York City, says an October 24, 2013 article in the New York Daily News (3), investigations of Latino construction worker deaths often reveal multiple safety violations. Dangerous conditions are more likely to occur at worksites run by smaller, nonunion contractors that regularly employ immigrant day laborers.
“Latino day laborers often hesitate to report hazards at the workplace,” said New York personal injury attorney Adam Orlow. “They are very afraid of losing their jobs.” Nor can workers rely on OSHA to protect them. As stated in an October 2013 report by the Center for Popular Democracy (4), OSHA is too understaffed to perform an adequate number of preventive inspections and is often not aggressive enough in imposing penalties after serious accidents. “Violations of OSHA safety regulations cause far too many injuries and deaths, especially when workers fall from elevated heights,” explained Orlow. He added that fatal falls disproportionately happen to Latino workers.
The New York State Trial Lawyers Association cites falls from an elevation as a major cause of construction injuries and fatalities (5). Two trades, masonry work and roofing-siding-sheet metal work are particularly risky due to frequent use of scaffolds and working at elevated heights. Fatalities occur when scaffolding is faulty and improperly secured; or when the most basic safety equipment, like harnesses, are not provided to workers. In New York State, the Scaffold Law (Labor Law § 240) holds construction site owners and contractors fully liable if they violate safety requirements and cause a worker’s injury or death. Under the law, site owners and contractors must adequately compensate workers for medical care and pain and suffering if failed safety practices resulted in their injuries. “This type of compensation is essential because it covers health expenses for the duration of the injury,” said Orlow. “Compare it to workers compensation, which is time-limited, and where benefits may terminate before a worker recovers from his injuries.” Construction and insurance companies hope to cut costs by proposing that some responsibility for workplace injury should be shifted to the workers themselves. Orlow vigorously opposes such changes to the Scaffold Law. “Comparative liability takes no account of the fact that workers often have no choice but to work in unsafe environments. They may not know their legal rights, they may face language barriers, and they may fear retaliation if they speak out. If construction firms and insurance companies want to control costs, they should do so by improving workplace safety.”
The attorneys at the Orlow firm fight for the rights of injured construction workers of all backgrounds. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a construction accident, contact the Orlow firm for a free consultation. They operate three offices across New York City for your convenience. They can go to you if you cannot come to them. To contact the Orlow firm, call 866-959-7202.
1. Fox News Latino October 24, 2013: New Report Says NYC Latino Construction Workers Disproportionately Die On The Job, http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2013/10/24/new-york-latino-construction-workers-more-likely-to-die-on-job-report-says/
2. United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Commonly Used Statistics, https://www.osha.gov/oshstats/commonstats.html
3. New York Daily News October 24, 2013: EXCLUSIVE: Latino, immigrant construction workers more likely to die on job in NYC: study, http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/latinos-immigrants-die-ny-construction-study-article-1.1494618
4. Center for Popular Democracy, October 25, 2013: Fatal Inequality: Workplace Safety Eludes Construction Workers of Color in New York State, http://populardemocracy.org/news/fatal-inequality-report
5. New York State Trial Lawyers Association: Lives in the Balance: Immigrants and Workers at Elevated Heights at Greatest Risk in Construction, 2005, http://www.elcosh.org/document/1906/d000724/Lives%2Bin%2Bthe%2BBalance%253A%2BImmigrants%2Band%2BWorkers%2Bat%2BElevated%2BHeights%2Bat%2BGreatest%2BRisk%2Bin%2BConstruction.html?show_text=1