In a recent study by the University of Southern California (USC), researchers found African Americans and foreign-born Hispanics face a much higher incidence of work-related injury than white workers. The ethnicity with the highest injury rate among men age 18–64 is Hispanics, with 13.7 injuries per 1,000 workers, followed by African Americans with over 12, white workers with 11.8, and finally Asian Americans with less than 10.
These increased injury risks are also correlated with higher risks of disability, especially for workers between 50 and 64 years old. The study found white workers in this age group have the lowest risk (2.5 percent) whereas African Americans have the greatest risk (4.4 percent).
Characteristics of Injured Minority Workers
Though difficult to pinpoint, other research has begun to identify where racial discrimination at work correlates with increased risk of injury. Another study focused on the relationship between reported work injuries and experience of racial discrimination. In discussing the results, the authors said, “Those who experienced discrimination at work were two times as likely as those without discrimination experiences to report illness/injury/assault.”
The only statistically significant correlation between ethnicity and work-related injury, illness, or assault arose among Hispanic responders: they were twice as likely as white workers to be injured on the job. Other races surveyed did not differ significantly from one another.
Policies of Discrimination
The same study identified two types of discrimination that could affect worker safety among minorities: institutional and interpersonal. Interpersonal discrimination occurs when a supervisor assigns minorities to higher-risk jobs or sites. The authors define institutional discrimination as “discriminatory policies built into an organizational structure (e.g., not promoting minority employees beyond a certain level).” Both types of discrimination were correlated with increased risk of injury, illness, or assault in this study.
Seth Seabury, director of the Keck-Schaeffer Initiative for Population Health at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, contributed more foundational causes of these statistics: “Disparities in economic opportunities for minorities lead them to take more hazardous jobs that raise their risk of injury and disability.”
Foreign Workers’ Vulnerability
In addition, organizations like the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA) have pointed out that non-native Hispanic workers are less likely to report injuries or disability out of fear. Undocumented immigrants are especially at risk for abuse and discrimination because they lack legal status and oftentimes lack knowledge of their rights, both of which others can exploit.
The LHSFNA also pointed out this growing workforce has minimal access to healthcare; two-thirds of Latino construction workers don’t have health insurance, and 60 percent of those without insurance haven’t seen a doctor in a year.
Minimizing Minority Injury Risk
Organizations like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the LHSFNA have implemented programs to train workers in correct safety procedures and inform them of their rights. OSHA established policies to help guarantee that non-native English speakers receive job training in their native language. In addition, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division works with day contractors around the country to stop violators from exploiting immigrant workers.
These steps attempt to restructure issues from the top down, but individual workers can help these agencies make meaningful progress in several ways:
- Report unsafe workplaces or practices to your company’s safety officer or another high-ranking official
- Educate yourself on your rights and options using resources available from OSHA and Department of Labor
- Demand compensation from workplace injuries by contacting a qualified local workers’ compensation attorney
Support from an Evansville Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you’ve been injured on the job, especially in unsafe working conditions, you may benefit from having a legal advocate on your side. Hensley Legal Group’s experienced work injury attorneys may be able to help you get the compensation you deserve through all possible avenues. Contact us today for a free consultation of your options during this difficult time.