Rise in Deaths of Undocumented Construction Workers

Despite the population of unauthorized immigrants dropping in New York City in recent years, the city has experienced a significant increase in deaths among undocumented construction workers. The New York Times reports that the deaths are related to a construction frenzy across all five boroughs.

Deaths among construction workers in the city have surged, but the majority have occurred among unauthorized immigrants. The fatality rate over the past two years has far surpassed the rate of new construction during the same time. The uptick in worker deaths points to extremely lax safety measures at construction job sites, the newspaper reports.

Undocumented Worker Fatalities “Completely Avoidable”

Increase in undocumented construction worker deathsIn a review of the city’s construction fatalities over the past two years, The Times found that many could have been avoided with adequate safety measures. Throughout thousands of pages of safety reports and other documents, a theme emerged of substandard safety measures at sites where workers lost their lives. Common characteristics of fatal accidents included:

  • Workers failing to wear helmets or harnesses as the law requires.
  • Substandard supervision at construction sites.
  • An emphasis on speed that compelled workers to take unwise shortcuts.
  • Smaller projects using poorly trained, non-union workers.
  • Contractors that had received previous citations for safety infractions and had not paid penalties.

Construction Accidents in Massachusetts

Unauthorized immigrants make up 5.1 percent of the U.S. labor force. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States changed very little, but the number went up in seven states and down in 14 states during that time.

In Massachusetts, the number of unauthorized immigrants dropped by 25,000 between 2009 and 2012. At the end of the period, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the state stood at 150,000, constituting 2.3 percent of the population and 15 percent of the immigrant population. Unauthorized immigrants made up just 3.4 percent of the labor force.

As in New York City, unauthorized immigrants often are over-represented in construction accidents that result in serious injuries or fatalities. Poor training, inadequate safety equipment and safety measures, and contractors who are not committed to safety can contribute to conditions that put unauthorized immigrant workers at risk on the job.

In August 2015, a worker was killed in Taunton when he fell off a construction lift that tipped over. The lift was operating on a slope at the time of the accident, authorities reported.

Too often, construction workers in Massachusetts are hurt or killed in construction accidents, and in many cases, accidents involve unauthorized immigrants. Often, unauthorized immigrant workers are at a disadvantage — due to the language barrier and the need for immediate work — and can find themselves in unsafe situations because of contractors’ negligence on construction job sites.

Consult with an Experienced Workplace Injury Attorney

If you are new to the United States, you may feel that you are powerless to protect yourself on a job site. Understand that being safe on the job is your right and that contractors, landowners and other parties must follow the laws that require them to take appropriate safety precautions. If you or a loved one have been injured by unsafe practices at a work site, consult with an attorney with significant experience in workers compensation and injuries. Contact the Law Office of John J. Sheehan for a free consultation today.

Photo via flickr by afflictedmonkey