Study: Hispanics injured most on job

Many injuries could be prevented if employers made safety their top priority instead of short-term profits.

Moderator: Webmaster

Study: Hispanics injured most on job

Postby Chris M. » March 11th, 2005, 10:37 am

Study: Hispanics injured most on job
By Liz Mineo / Daily News Staff
Monday, March 7, 2005

On a bright October day, Roberto Fernandes was working as a roofer in Lawrence when a metal ladder he was unloading struck a power line that sent 7,620 volts through his body, killing him.

Last November, Josias Peres was fixing a minivan in a Marlborough auto shop when the car lunged forward and pinned him against a wall smashing his head and chest. He died, too.

In November 2002, Wiltemy Dutra was smoothing a slope in the side yard of a Wayland home when the tractor he was driving hit a soft patch of dirt on an incline and rolled over, crushing him to death.

The common bond the dead men all share is that they were immigrants, a huge pool of labor often tapped because it is cheap, plentiful and readily available. As immigrants join the U.S. work force in high numbers, they are also joining the ranks of those who die on the job, and they are dying at alarming rates.

Hispanics or Latinos, the bulk of foreign-born workers in the nation, are more likely to die on the job than any other racial or ethnic group.

According to the U.S. Labor Department's National Census of Occupational Injuries, of the 5,559 fatal work injuries in the nation in 2003, 14 percent were Hispanics or Latinos. Blacks accounted for 10 percent. Asians were 1 percent. Whites represented 72 percent.

What makes this more dramatic is that while the overall number of those who are killed on the job is falling, deaths among Hispanics or Latinos are on the rise, according to labor experts.

Among the contributing factors for the deadly trend are language barriers, lack of training, experience and knowledge of laws. Illegal immigrants, who are often targeted for cheap work, are also vulnerable to exploitation because they lack legal papers and fear deportation. Because of all this, immigrants, both legal and illegal, end up being disproportionately employed in high-risk jobs.

Despite those factors, most deaths on the job don't have to happen, said Carlos Eduardo Siqueira, a professor at UMass-Lowell's Department of Work Environment, who leads a project in Lowell aimed at identifying workplace hazards affecting Brazilian immigrant workers in Massachusetts.

"Most of those deaths could have been prevented," said Siqueira. "They are not freak accidents. In most cases, workers die because of unsafe working conditions, poor training or lack of proper equipment. In many cases, it was a matter of who was going to die, not what the worker did wrong."

Work injuries and deaths are investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency responsible for making sure workplaces are safe.

This week, OSHA began investigating an accident in Hudson in which worker Luis Costa was seriously injured by 12 sheets of falling plywood. The wood fell four stories through an elevator shaft onto his head while he was working at a Main Street condominium complex.

Among the hundreds of cases OSHA has investigated in the state in previous years are the deaths of a window washer who fell seven stories from a downtown Boston office building; that of a laborer who died when he was caught in a ribbon blender at a fish processing plant in New Bedford; and that of a laborer who was smashed by a falling stack of pallets loaded with concrete blocks in a Holbrook concrete factory.

The situation in Massachusetts reflects what happens across the nation. The state's occupational health surveillance program reports that from 1991 to 1999, Hispanics had the highest rate of fatal injury among all workers in Massachusetts.

During the same period, of the 633 workers who died at work, 110 were immigrants. Of them, 32 were Hispanics. Brazilian deaths started to appear on the radar after 1999, said officials at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Occupational Health Surveillance Program. Between 2000 and 2002, there were seven Brazilians who died at work. Numbers for 2003 and 2004 have yet to be released.

Francyslene Miranda, safety and health coordinator at Allston's Brazilian Immigrant Center, is busy these days helping injured workers obtain workers compensation benefits.

Last year, Miranda dealt with more than 100 cases. Among them were workers who fell from roofs, carpenters who lost their fingers, and restaurant employees who were burned on the job. Few have received help from their employers and that is a common phenomenon, said Miranda. Employers often don't pay for the hospital expenses or even take them to the hospital. Many employers also threaten workers with reporting them to immigration officers.

"When they work for them, they pay them under the table, but when they get injured, they (say) they don't know them," said Miranda. "Many times, workers are afraid of retaliation and they don't report their employers. They don't know that even if they're undocumented they have rights."

That is one of the reasons the data on work injuries is not accurate. Most go unreported not only because workers are afraid of retaliation, but also because they haven't heard of OSHA or workers compensation laws.

Such was the case of Edmundo Almeida, 38, a Brazilian native who broke his left knee when he fell from the steps while working at a Hudson construction company. When he went to the Brazilian Immigrant Center, he found out he had rights.

When the accident took place, his boss told him that because it happened after work hours it was not his responsibility even though it happened on the job site. Almeida's co-workers took him to the hospital, where he had to undergo surgery. One and a half years after the accident, he is still in pain and hasn't been able to work.

"It was a bad experience," said Almeida, who was a hairdresser in Brazil before moving to Marlborough. "I can't carry heavy things, I can't walk like before, but at least I'm alive."

( Liz Mineo can be reached at 508-626-3825 or ) ... =92541&amp
Chris M.

hispanics at work

Postby aug31955 » May 20th, 2005, 6:14 am

I am very sorry that these people had to die, but my feeling are and you can use that as just my feelings is that hispanics should not be able to work in this county unless they can speak our lanugage, I am not down on these people because i do relize that they are hard workers but whites are very hard workers to. Paying them very little money gives them the chance to not really care about what they are doing a good education along with good speaking and a pat on the back to them might get them to want to stay here but to learn our language, do you notice that if we apply for a spanish speaking job we are paid big bucks so what is the difference

Postby bradpitt1111 » May 5th, 2009, 9:35 pm

The incidents you told are really sad.Most of the workers go to death while they are on their job.
My opinion is that the government must legalise the insurance policy and must make it a boundation for each and every company to insure EVERY employee of theirs because a whole family is dependent on them!!
and if something happens to them what will happen to the family!has anybody thought of that??
brad pitt
Attorney Directory
Posts: 1
Joined: May 5th, 2009, 9:28 pm

Return to Workplace Safety Issues

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests