Accident highlights dangers to Hispanic workers
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)