Even before COVID-19 made workplace safety a real issue for many Americans, Latino workers have had a higher chance of being injured and dying on the job for years.
Based on 2019 numbers, the most recent available data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, the job fatality rate for Latino workers is at almost 4 per 100,000 workers, compared to 3.5 for all workers. And it was higher than the previous years. At least 1,088 Hispanics died on the job in 2019, compared to 961 in 2018 and 903 in 2017.
If all the factors are the same, why do Latinos have a higher mortality rate?
This is a concern for the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC), which hosted a webinar in both English and Spanish on the disproportionate number of injuries and deaths among Latinos at U.S. job. As National Safety Month ends in June, TAMACC continues to campaign for worker safety and ask the questions that must be asked.
The figures provided by the federal government show that a third of the Latinos fatally injured at work are native-born and two-thirds are immigrants. Studies consistently show that most Latino workers who died on the job worked in construction. The second highest number were motor vehicle operators, followed by maintenance workers and agricultural workers.
Now we can add workplace exposure to COVID-19 to that list. According to a recent study by two leading universities, the virus is a substantial factor in the disproportionately high rate of infection among Hispanics. The risk at the workplace was found to be much higher than the risk at home or in the community.
That is likely because more than half of “essential workers” nationwide – in healthcare as well as food production and preparation — are Latinos.
“We are your nurses, your bus drivers, your small business owners,” said J.R. Gonzales, Executive Vice-Chair at TAMACC and host of the Latino Business Report podcast. “We kept America going.”
“Making our people safe is as important as it gets,” Gonzales said.