Safety Concerns for Latino Construction Workers

(Photo via Diario de Mexico)

(Photo via Diario de Mexico)

The U.S. Department of Labor expects around 25,000 construction companies to join its “National Fall Prevention Stand-Down” program, which aims to prevent falls, [a common problem in the] industry. [Read more here: http://www.osha.gov/StopFallsStandDown]

Under this initiative, companies organize a time during the workday to talk with their employees about the need to strengthen protective measures to prevent accidents, and wearing the right kind of clothing during daily shifts. In addition, there is training in industrial safety.

In 2012, a total of 806 construction workers lost their lives, and nearly 300 of them died due to falls, according to Jim Maddux, director of the OSHA Directorate of Construction. Falls are the main cause of death among construction workers in New York and New Jersey.

[Editor’s note: Construction work is a particular safety issue for Latino workers. Diario de Mexico reports that in 2013, 41 percent of the construction workers who died in the U.S. were Latino.]

Going unnoticed

Diario de Mexico tried to enter a construction site near Juan Pablo Duarte Park in Union City, New Jersey, to see if the program was being implemented, but the site was inaccessible. However, the paper was able to spot a worker going up to the roof without a helmet.

During this visit, the paper spoke with Mexican and Latino workers of the so-called “Garden State” who said they had not been informed that the program would take place from June 2 to June 6, but they affirmed that they do take safety precautions.

Ricardo Vidal, from the Mexican state of Guerrero, has been in the construction industry for nine years. He said he used reinforced steel-toe boots and wore thick clothing. However, he wasn’t wearing a protective face mask while putting a concrete plaque on the wall of a home on 39th Street in Hudson County.

Others, like Fernando Torres from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, give thanks to God and the Virgin of Guadalupe that he hasn’t had some kind of accident over the past 10 years.

For Fernando Letón, originally from Spain and a member of the New York union Local 1, safety is crucial for anyone who works in the industry since they’re risking their lives.

New environmental plan

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) welcomed President Obama’s energy plan, which he presented yesterday [June 2], in light of the fact that pollution from carbon dioxide emissions particularly impacts Latinos.

“Construction workers are at greater risk of being exposed to polluted air and high temperatures due to global warming,” said Brent Wilkes, LULAC’s national executive director.

Be ready

If inspectors find that a work site isn’t safe, they can halt construction until the risks are minimized.

“I haven’t fallen. I’ve worked on the roof, on top of the scaffolding, in all areas; but I try to protect myself by using good work boots, a helmet, and a face mask if I am working with toxic chemicals,” said Fernando Torres from Oaxaca.

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