QUEENS, NY - Just days ago, a job-site accident in Queens tragically killed a young, Latino construction worker. The 26-year-old man was helping construct a 65-foot wall when the cinder-block wall suddenly collapsed, killing him and seriously injuring three others. Early reports indicate that the wall failed as scaffolding collapsed and fell onto the wall. Sadly, the victim was a father, survived by his pregnant wife and two children.
The Queens construction accident is still under investigation, but presumably there were some safety practices overlooked. In fact, that same construction site had previously received six violations issued by the New York City Department of Buildings since June, 2009. The violations were for failure to follow essential safety laws, such as posting necessary warning signs.
A formal investigation is under way by the Buildings Department, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is likely to investigate, as they typically scrutinize the worksite of any fatal construction accident.
Accidents in the New York Construction Industry
New York City had 157 construction accidents in 2009, and those are just the accidents that were reported. In the construction industry, it is common practice to keep workplace accidents unreported unless a serious injury or death occurs. The construction industry is the second deadliest in the U.S. as 816 construction workers died in 2009, making it more dangerous than mining or factory work.
There are some risks a construction worker faces that can be reduced, but not eliminated. These threats are part of the job, such as:
- Weather: rain, lightning and high winds can increase the risk of an accident.
- Heavy equipment: many of the tools and equipment present a chance of serious injury or death to both the operator and nearby workers.
- Heights: construction workers are often working at great heights and even when on the ground they risk being struck by falling equipment or debris.
- A changing landscape: what may have been solid ground yesterday could be a 50-foot hole today.
However, health and safety officials have been working for decades to protect workers from these hazards. New York scrutinizes construction work especially closely because of the tight spaces and high population density. Countless laws and ordinances have been passed to make the industry safer, but unfortunately they mean nothing if construction companies continue failing to ensure safety measures.
The truth is that these fatal construction accidents will continue to occur as long as construction companies and foremen bypass important safety practices to save them time and money. Government and workers' rights organizations can only do so much. Ultimately, the responsibility of worker safety falls upon the employer.
Latinos, Hispanics Often Victims of Construction-Safety Violations
Unfortunately, Latino construction-worker injuries and deaths remain common in the construction industry. The BLS reports that workplace accidents killed 668 Latinos in 2009, accounting for 15 percent of all job-related fatalities. Latinos endure a workplace fatality rate of 3.7 per 100,000, the highest of any ethnic group.
Experts propose many different reasons for the disproportionate risk that Hispanic or Latino construction workers face. Some of their reasons include:
- Communication barriers - Spanish-speaking workers may not understand all English warnings or instructions. However, employers should accept the responsibility of providing sufficient communication to their workers, even if it means having an on-site translator or bilingual foreman.
- Undocumented status: Construction companies often seek the labor of undocumented workers - sometimes referred to as illegal aliens - who came from Central or South American countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras. Construction companies know that these undocumented Latino workers will not report safety violations, out of fear of deportation.
- Hard-working nature: Some experts believe that construction companies take advantage of the hard-working and non-complaining traits of Latinos by putting them up to dangerous tasks without the necessary safety precautions in place.
Regardless of the cause, Latino construction workers suffer a heightened risk of serious injury or death. Fortunately, all injured Latinos have legal rights in America.
All Injured Latino Workers Have Legal Rights to Recovery
It does not matter whether the Latino worker is a first or second-generation American, or whether the hurt worker has documented or undocumented status. The lack of a work-permit, visa or green card has no bearing on an injured worker's entitlement to damages when they suffer a work injury . And when a Latino worker dies from a workplace accident, his surviving family is entitled to legal recovery as well.
If you have been seriously injured while working at your job, it is crucial to contact a skilled New York personal injury attorney. Do not hesitate; you can confidentially consult with an independent lawyer and it will not appear in your employment files. The attorney will share information to help you obtain adequate compensation for your work-related injury or loved one's death.