The U.S. work force is becoming more multicultural, and this trend is also evident in the construction industry. The number of Hispanics employed in the construction industry rose from 342,000 in the year 1980 to 1,408,000 in the year 2000 as shown in Exhibit 1 published by The Construction Chart Book (2002). This publication reports that 17% of construction wage and salary workers are Hispanic.

(Exhibit in full paper)

Hispanics make up a disproportionately large share of workers in some construction trades, accounting, for instance, for 33% of drywallers, 31% of tile setters, 27% of concrete workers, 26% of painters, 23% of roofers, and 21% of laborers (CPWR 2002, Ruttenberg and Lazo 2004 Jaselskis et al. 1996, Jaselskis et al. 2004). The construction sector attracts a great number of Hispanic workers due to the ease of entry, relatively high wages, low skill requirements, lax legal documentation, limited need for English literacy, and the availability of jobs. Between 1980 and 2000, the number of construction workers who identified themselves as Hispanic quadrupled to 1.4 million, or 17% of wage-and-salary workers (CPWR 2002). As the number of Hispanics working in construction increases, the fatality rate has risen disproportionately. John Henshaw, the assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), determined that in 2000 Hispanics accounted for an inconsistent number of workplace fatalities in all industries—13.8%, compared with their proportion of employment, 10.7%. (Henshaw 2002). Other studies have shown that between 1992 and 2003 the construction laborer fatalities among Hispanics have more than doubled from 108 to 263 (Dong et. al. 2005). According to a 2000 BLS report on fatalities, 815 Hispanic or Latino workers died as a result of job-related injuries in 2000. Nearly 20% of Hispanic fatalities were due to falls and contact with equipment, events more common in construction work sites than other employment areas (Henshaw 2002). In addition, approximately 627,000 construction workers – roughly half of the Hispanic construction workers in the U.S. – are illegal immigrants, who may not complain about unsafe work because they are afraid to lose their job or face deportation (Hopkins 2003). It is important to note that any research effort aimed at improving the safety conditions of Hispanic workers, should not consider residency status since this may limit participation in of this population. To compound the language problem, many Hispanic construction workers in the U.S. have limited literacy in Spanish, as well as in English. The distribution of educational attainment in construction for the year 2000 shows that 54% of Hispanic workers had not earned a High School diploma. For the same year, only 15% of non-Hispanic workers had attained less than a High School diploma (CPWR 2002).

OSHA has been working to provide employees with better tools addressing and ensuring their safety in the workplace. This has been done by different means including compliance inspections, citations and penalties.

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