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Worker Deaths Decline, But Not For Latinos, Says AFL-CIO Report

Construction workers in the Charter Square Building watch a small group of advocates gather on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 in Raleigh, N.C. Standing across the street from the site of a deadly construction accident, worker advocates on Tuesday called on the state Labor Department to report on all people who die on the job, not just some of them. (Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP)Robert Willett / AP
/ Source: NBC News

A new report released Wednesday shows the number of workers who die while working continues to decline each year—but not for Latinos, who work in dangerous jobs and are 18 percent more likely to die on the job than other workers.

The AFL-CIO’s annual “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect” report shows that in 2013 a total of 817 Latinos died while working, an increase from 748 in 2012. Of those Latino workers who died on the job in 2013, a total of 542 were immigrants and the vast majority were men.

California was responsible for the largest number of Latino worker deaths in 2013. A total of 194 Latinos died on the job, making up almost half of all worker deaths in California that year. Following closely behind was Texas with 192 Latino worker deaths and Florida with 68 Latino worker deaths.

“The disturbing rate of death on the job within the Latino community makes clear the pressing need to ensure that all workers to have a greater voice in the workplace,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Nationwide, the number of workers killed on the job has been declining. In 2013, a total of 4,585 workers were killed while working, down from 4,690 in 2010. The overall job fatality rate has also been declining over the last few years, with a rate of 3.3 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2013 compared with a rate of 3.6 in 2010.

Peg Seminario, director of health and safety for the AFL-CIO, pointed out in a conference call with reporters Wednesday that the job fatality rate has declined for all groups of workers except for Latinos. Their job fatality rate inched up to 3.9 deaths per 100,000 workers after dropping to a rate of 3.7 in 2012.

“Latino workers have had a heavy burden and a disproportionate rate of job fatalities for numbers of years, but we had been making progress,” she said. “And now we see that being reversed, so that is a great concern.”

One explanation for why more Latinos are dying on the job is because they continue to make up a large share of workers in dangerous jobs like construction, which was responsible for the greatest number of Latino worker deaths in 2013 with a total of 241. Other Latino deaths included 71 landscapers, 54 truck drivers, and 55 agricultural workers.

There were also significant increases in the number of Latino workers who died in others occupations, including tree-trimming and pruning, as well as the oil and gas industry.

The leading cause of death for Latinos in the workplace was related to transportation incidents, which caused 267 Latinos to die on the job. A total of 179 Latino workers also died due to fatal falls. Contact with equipment and violence also lead to a large number of deaths, 169 and 107 deaths respectively.

Neidi Dominguez, director of worker centers for the AFL-CIO, told reporters that many Latino workers don’t know about their workplace protections. And those that do are afraid to report workplace violations, especially undocumented immigrants who fear they’ll be deported if they speak up.

Dominguez also said workers should be able to report job injuries and dangerous work conditions without facing retaliation from their employers. She also said it’s important to increase the protections for immigrant workers.

“If there are protections for them not just before they raise their claim but during their claim and after their claim, more workers will come forward and that will help prevent some of these deaths,” she said.