Electrical Worker Death Could Have Been Prevented, Experts Say

A man was killed after being electrocuted while doing overnight construction work on a Wal-Mart in Walpole, Mass. According to the Boston Globe, Romulo Santos, a 47-year-old Brazilian immigrant, was re-attaching electrical wires that had been knocked down by a construction crew.

The building trades, particularly immigrants in the trades, are the largest contingent of workers killed in the commonwealth. In 2007, 20 building trades’ workers lost their lives on the job in Massachusetts – 40 percent (eight) of these workers were immigrants.

This past decade has seen a dramatic increase in Brazilian worker fatalities in the commonwealth compared to the previous one: According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Occupational Health Surveillance Program (OHSP), between 19991 and 1998, the state recorded no deaths of Brazilian-born workers. From 1999 through 2007, however, 15 Brazilian-born workers were killed on the job in Massachusetts, eight from construction accidents.

This electrical fatality also is not the first for the multi-billion dollar retailer. Two years ago, Scott Sheldon was working at a Wal-Mart construction site in Indiana when, at age 35, he was electrocuted.

Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) and Carlos Eduardo Siqueira, president of the Board of the Brazilian Immigrant Center, released this statement: “Workers should be able to go to work and return home with their lives and limbs intact. We don’t yet know the details of this tragic situation, but it’s safe to say that exposing a laborer to live electricity in the middle of the night is a recipe for disaster.”

“Too many building trades’ workers – particularly immigrants – are dying in our state,” she added. “Too often they are working without proper safety measures, training nor protective equipment. Swift action needs to be taken or the deaths and devastation will continue.”

“Unfortunately one more Brazilian construction worker died due to a highly preventable cause: electrocution. Brazilian construction workers would not die at work if their employers complied with mandatory construction safety and health standards,” said Siqueira.

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