workplace injuries more common for minorities

Latino and African American men are at the highest risk for being injured on the job, according to a study from the University of Southern California. According to a report, researchers looked at data on 11.6 million people from the American Community Survey between 2006 and 2013. They found that foreign-born Latino men between 18 and 64 have the highest average rate for workplace injuries. African American men were second followed by native-born Latino men, white men and Asian Americans.

What the Study Found

Researchers found in the study, published in the journal Health Affairs, that their risk for injury and disability was higher even when they accounted for education and other demographic characteristics. They say disparities in economic opportunities for minorities lead them to take on more hazardous jobs that heighten their risk for injury and disability. Higher workplace injury risk is linked to a higher disability risk. This is particularly true for workers who are 50 to 64 years old.

In this age range African Americans have a 4.4 percent rate of work-related disability, foreign-born Latinos were at 4.2 percent, Asian Americans at 4 percent, native-born Latinos at 3.5 percent and whites at about 2.5 percent. Some of the factors that could result in discrepancies in work-related injuries include bias in assigning minority workers to hazardous tasks and discrimination in hiring and promotion, researchers said. They added that policymakers and regulators might have to evaluate whether employers are assigning minority workers to more risky or hazardous jobs.

Why Immigrant Workers Are at Risk

Studies have also shown that Latinos, who are the predominate minority in construction, have the highest fatality rate among all population groups, an unwelcome distinction they have held for 15 years nationwide. Accounting for nearly one in four construction workers, Latino workers face a 20 percent higher risk of dying from an on-the-job injury than their peers.

Minorities at the highest risk are immigrant workers who do not speak English. Most are native Spanish speakers. They may not understand safety instructions or warnings. They may not have received proper training. The work they did in their home country may have been different because practices vary and safety regulations may be weaker or not well enforced. In addition, these workers may not know their rights with regard to a safe workplace or workers’ compensation if they become injured or disabled.

Many Latino workers are treated as “independent contractors” who are responsible for their own safety and exempt from social security, unemployment, insurance and other laws. Minority and immigrant workers tend to be relegated to lower-paying and more hazardous jobs. Yet another problem is legal status. Undocumented immigrants are especially vulnerable. These workers are in constant fear of deportation especially now with the Trump administration cracking down on undocumented immigrants. It’s also worth noting that nearly two-thirds of Latino construction workers have no health insurance (especially those who are not part of unions) and 60 percent of those without insurance have not seen a doctor in over a year.

Improving the Safety of Minority Workers

There are several things that employers can do to ensure the safety and well-being of minority or immigrant workers. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established new policies to make sure that non-English speaking workers are trained in their native languages, especially about their rights to a safe workplace. Training materials should be available in the workers’ native languages. Inadequate safety training of non-English-speaking employers could result in errors, injuries or even fatalities. OSHA gives managers some things to keep in mind while training non-English-speaking workers:

  • Don’t assume employees can read.
  • Assist employees who don’t speak English by displaying signs and posters in their native tongue. Remember that employees with limited English skills may also be unable to read in their native language.
  • Make sure you provide both written and verbal safety instruction to all employees.
  • Don’t shortcut training or provide non-English speaking workers with bare-minimum instruction on what needs to be done.
  • Be aware of cultural differences. For example, in some cultures, it might be considered rude to ask questions or challenge authority. In other cultures, the types of dress may interfere with safe work practices.
  • Think beyond Spanish. You may have workers who speak other languages. You may need to provide them with necessary training by using translation services.

There are other things you can do as well. Speak slowly, explain and repeat important points several times. Avoid technical jargon. If you must use them explain them as simply as possible. Consider using a translator when you are instructing employees who have minimal or limited English skills. Try to use visual aids such as pictures and props. Encourage participation and encourage questions. Have employees demonstrate new skills so you can verify they know and that they have understood. Get feedback to confirm comprehension. Give employees handouts in languages they can understand. Follow up on the job to make sure they are able to apply what they’ve learned.

Knowing Your Rights

It is important for immigrant, minority and undocumented workers to know and understand their rights. Employers will try to exploit workers’ lack of knowledge or information when it comes to their rights. If you have been injured in a workplace accident, whether you are an immigrant or an undocumented worker, you have rights.

Be sure to report your accident to your employer or supervisor right away. Get medical attention and treatment for your injuries. If you believe that your work environment is hazardous or if your employer is discriminating against you because you are an immigrant or non-English-speaking, you can lodge a complaint against your employer. And your employer cannot retaliate against you for being a whistleblower.

If you have been injured in a workplace accident, the experienced Los Angeles workers’ compensation attorneys at the ODG Law Group can help you better understand your legal rights and options. We are committed to fighting for and protecting the rights of all workers, and strive to help you obtain maximum compensation for your losses. Call us at 818-230-2428 for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation and case evaluation.

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