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Hispanic Laborers Die at Higher Rates on Job Sites


Hispanic workers die at higher rates than other laborers, with 1 in 3 of these deaths occurring in the construction industry, a government study reported on June 5.

Researchers said Hispanics tended to hold more high-risk jobs than those in other racial groups, but language and literacy barriers and poor training and supervision might also be factors. The leading causes of death in recent years have been falls and highway-related accidents, the report said.

The study was done by health researchers in Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The study counted more than 11,000 Hispanic work-related deaths nationwide from 1992-2006. The data were culled from death certificates, police reports, workers’ compensation reports and other sources.

The researchers calculated an annual death rate of 5 per 100,000 Hispanic workers in 2006. But the rate for foreign-born Hispanics, roughly 6 per 100,000, was far higher than the 3.5 for those born in the United States.

The rate for non-Hispanic white workers was 4. For Blacks, it was 3.7.

“The burden of risk is primarily on foreign-born workers,” said Scott Richardson, a Bureau of Labor Statistics program director, in a telephone press conference about the new report.

From 1992-96, murder on the job was the most common cause of death among Hispanic workers, with crimes like convenience store robberies contributing heavily to that tally.

Then highway accidents became the leading type of work-related fatality. Falls also have become common, and were the leading cause of death in 2000 and 2006.

An analysis of the most recent deaths, from 2003-06, found that two of every three Hispanic workers who died on the job were foreign-born. In 1992, immigrants accounted for about half of the work-related deaths among Hispanic laborers.

In recent years, about 70 percent of the foreign-born fatalities were among immigrants from Mexico.

Commenting on the study, Rakesh Kochhar, associated director for research at the Pew Hispanic Center, which also follows trends among that population but was not part of the new study, said, “Many of the Hispanic workers in construction are undocumented, and many of those who are recently arrived do face a language barrier. A language barrier hinders understanding of a job, or the risks associated with it, or safety precautions.”’

In 2003 through 2006, the highest totals of Hispanic work-related deaths were in California, with 773; Texas, with 687; and Florida, with 417. But the highest death rate for Hispanic workers was in South Carolina, about 23 per 100,000. A recent influx there of primarily foreign-born workers might account for that, experts said.

Hispanics make up about 14 percent of the nation’s working-age population, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington-based research organization.

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