Construction has always been a dangerous job. Workers typically have to work outside in all kinds of weather and even at significant heights, often with heavy machinery or supplies. They work in close proximity to dangerous equipment, may have exposure to dangerous compounds, such as asbestos which used to be used for insulation, and have ongoing risks, like falls, electrocutions and other possibly fatal construction accidents.
All of that risk means that construction workers can often command better wages than other people working in blue-collar professions. However, those higher wages will be a cold comfort if a workplace accident claims a worker’s life or leaves them so severely injured that their career effectively ends. The sad truth is that certain workers are at substantially higher risk for fatal accidents on the job than others.
Employers willing to bend employment law may also break safety rules
Some construction firms are eager to hire undocumented employees or contractors. They know that these workers will likely complain less, work harder and possibly be unfamiliar with their rights. The companies can then get away with not providing adequate safety equipment, proper training or safe work sites.
Statistics about construction fatalities support the idea that companies that hire undocumented Hispanic workers, especially young workers, don’t prioritize the safety of their employees. According to a report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the American Society of Safety Engineers, Hispanic immigrants under the age of 25 working in construction have a nearly 50% higher risk than other construction workers for a fatal job incident.
Documentation status does not impact your right to compensation
If you got hurt on the job or if you lost a loved one and are not a properly documented immigrant, you may think that you have no rights. In fact, the company involved might even try threatening you with deportation if you take action against them, seek workers’ compensation or file a civil lawsuit.
Such threats and actions constitute retaliation against an injured worker and violate federal law. Employees, regardless of their documentation status, have the right to a safe workplace, and to workers’ compensation and legal action when their employers don’t keep them safe.