Ac­ci­dent high­lights dan­gers to His­panic work­ers

La Semana - - FRONT PAGE / PORTADA -

On Tues­day morn­ing De­cem­ber 18, four con­struc­tion work­ers were in­jured after a scaf­fold on which they were work­ing col­lapsed. The in­ci­dent oc­curred out­side of a build­ing lo­cated at 5th and Cincin­nati in down­town Tulsa near 9:30 in the morn­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to the state­ments of some of work­ers, the scaf­fold­ing be­gan to move sud­denly to the height of the 11th floor of the build­ing and then be­gan to move down. The scaf­fold­ing did not stop mov­ing un­til it col­lapsed in its en­tirety at the height of the fourth floor, send­ing a to­tal of four men to the ground.

And while for­tu­nately the in­ci­dent in down­town Tulsa did not re­sult in any fa­tal­i­ties or se­ri­ous in­juries, it none­the­less un­der­scores a dan­ger­ous re­al­ity for His­panic con­struc­tion work­ers both here in Ok­la­homa and across the coun­try. A 2015 study shows that young His­pan­ics em­ployed by small con­struc­tion firms have the high­est fa­tal­ity rates of any group of work­ers in the United States.

“Over­lap­ping Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties: The Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health of Young Im­mi­grant Work­ers in Small Con­struc­tion Firms,” a re­port by the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Safety Engi- neers (ASSE) and the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health (NIOSH), points out the mul­ti­ple fac­tors that con­trib­ute to the dan­gers faced by im­mi­grant con­struc­tion work­ers.

“His­panic im­mi­grant work­ers en­dure a higher bur­den of oc­cu­pa­tional in­jury and fa­tal­ity than do U.S.-born His­panic, non-His­panic, and non-im­mi­grant work­ers,” the re­port states. “One high-risk in­dus­try with a high con­cen­tra­tion of His­panic im­mi­grant work­ers is con­struc­tion.”

The re­port points out that 75% of His­panic con­struc­tion work­ers in this coun­try are im­mi­grants, and many of these are young peo­ple with lim­ited work ex­pe­ri­ence. There­fore these work­ers are less likely to be aware of U.S. work­place safety re­quire­ments and are less likely to chal­lenge su­per­vi­sors if the re­quire­ments are not be­ing met. Smaller con­struc­tion com­pa­nies with­out for­mal safety de­part­ments are the most risky em­ploy­ers of this type, and if the work­ers hap­pen to be un­doc­u­mented the risk fac­tors go up even more.

“Fur­ther­more, lan­guage dif­fer­ences among im­mi­grant work­ers, their su­per­vi­sors, and co­work­ers, are one of the most fre­quently cited bar­ri­ers to safety,” the re­port adds.

The vic­tims of Tues­day’s ac­ci­dent were taken to the hos­pi­tal where they were treated for frac­tures, in­clud­ing one worker’s bro­ken leg.

One worker who was present at the ac­ci­dent, Este­ban Bar­ron, re­ported that the fall of the scaf­fold­ing could have oc­curred be­cause it was not sta­ble at the time of be­ing as­sem­bled. He also said that about half of the work­ers who were there that morn­ing are His­panic, in­clud­ing the in­jured men.

In an­other state­ment, Vic­tor Grimes, Pub­lic In­for­ma­tion Of­fi­cer for the Tulsa Fire De­part­ment, said that the men were in­side an el­e­va­tor that was placed on the scaf­fold­ing, and this shielded them from more se­vere in­juries.

The site where the in­jured men were work­ing was ac­quired in 2015 by the Ross Group, has been con­vert­ing the build­ing into a bou­tique ho­tel sched­uled to open later this year. (La Se­m­ana)


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