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We already know that Latinos are more likely to die on the job compared to their white and black counterparts.
The majority of Latino work-related deaths happen in the construction industry, and most fatalities affect foreign-born Latinos.
However, there is good news: This issue was addressed at the Safety 2019 Conference.
“There is a lack of communication between foreign-born Latinos, their superiors and even their coworkers because of limited language capabilities,” Carmen Julia Castellon, Health and Safety Specialist for U.S. Cellular and a Bolivian immigrant, told EHS Today.
Latinos & Workplace Harms
Latinos make up 19% of all workforce fatalities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2016, 879 Latino workers were killed on the job. Just one year later, that number rose by 24.
Latino work-related deaths stem from multiple industries, including:
- Car accidents via freight trucking (heavy and tractor-trailer drivers)
- Falling debris in landscaping services
- Falling from scaffold staging
The lack of Spanish training materials presents a significant challenge to ensuring Latino labor security, thus causing higher fatality rates. Furthermore, these workers also can suffer an injury due to a poor understanding of OSHA regulations.
Other barriers involve culture and anxiety.
“It is very cultural that [workers] do not ask questions,” Castellon told attendees. “Because of their legal status, it is a fear to say that something is not safe or ‘I don’t want to work’ because of fear of retaliation.”
Four Ways to Reduce Deaths
Castellon believes that their responsibility as safety professionals, they must act as cultural leaders and take time to understand the culture.
She cites four steps managers can take to decrease Latino workplace fatality rates:
- Working to break cultural barriers: Employers can take dedicated action in this area by learning some of their employees’ native language, becoming knowledgeable about specific cultural aspects, and be accommodating, among others.
- Providing step-by-step direction and detailed explanations: Some might consider this step the most important when it comes to workplace protection. Writing clear, simple, understandable, and consistent instructions can lead to any task getting done in an efficient, and most importantly, safe manner.
- Giving the employee authority to stop if unsafe work is observed: Giving workers the ability to halt production when hazardous labor practices happen can lead to employee empowerment, greater workplace trust, and consistency in practices.
- Creating an inclusive and safe environment for a multicultural workforce: Managers can work toward an inclusive, multicultural environment by hiring minorities for executive-level positions, promoting open conversation for employees to express their views, and making sure to listen as well as act on their concerns.
“We need to give them the power and empower them to say ‘this is not safe’ without fear of retaliation,” Castellon said.