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Fatalities Up Among Hispanic Workers

Hispanic workers are a growing population in the construction trades, playing critical roles in the nation’s workforce. But they are also dying on the job in record numbers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people of Hispanic and Latino ethnicity make up 18% of the labor force but account for 20% of job fatalities.

More than 1,000 Hispanic or Latino workers died from work-related injuries in 2019, the highest number since 1992.

In the first part of the COVID-19 pandemic, the same population was hardest hit, making up 56% of the cases reported in 21 states, mainly in the meat and poultry processing industry.

These statistics are an important reminder that there remains much to address the challenges Hispanics face in the workplace.

There are language barriers, the fear of retaliation for speaking up about unsafe working conditions or simply because of their jobs.

Every worker is entitled to a safe work environment and a workspace free of dangerous hazards. In addition, everyone has the right to get the proper training in the language they understand and to feel comfortable reporting safety or health concerns.

To address this issue, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has information on worker rights and training resources written in Spanish and other languages.

OSHA collaborates with the Mexican Embassy to help increase awareness and protect the Spanish-speaking workforce. It is also holding stakeholder meetings to understand better how to improve outreach to Hispanic and Latino workers.

Employers need to do their part, too, so workers are safe doing their jobs. Employers need to make sure every worker knows their rights and is empowered to speak up when they have concerns on a worksite.

In addition to what OSHA offers, there are also non-government resources available in Spanish that companies can use to their advantage. The AFL-CIO, for example, has a Safety and Health Toolbox on workers’ rights in Spanish and numerous other languages.

The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse provides information to the government and other entities on effective operations of traffic work zones, including Spanish-Language materials.

And the UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health organization offers training to Spanish- and English-speaking workers with its training and educational materials, technical

assistance and policy information on workplace health and safety.

OSHA also offers its Hispanic Outreach Fact Sheet, which lists the various publications, a helpline, compliance assistance, and training in Spanish.

Employers must work with their employees to ensure they understand the perils of their job, give them the training they need to overcome those perils and give them proper notice of their rights.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.