AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said the overall decline in workplace fatalities reported yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is good news for many, but not all.
In 2000, 5,915 fatal work injuries were reported, the fewest since the fatality census began in 1992.
However, Sweeney said the report raises concern about safety and health protections for Hispanic workers.
"In 2000, the number of workplace fatalities among Hispanic workers increased to 815 from 725 in 1999 and fatalities among Hispanic construction workers increased by 24 percent," said Sweeney. "For all other groups, the numbers were down. Equally troubling is the fact that the number of workplace fatalities among Hispanic workers has increased by 60 percent since 1992."
Sweeney said Hispanic workers work in dangerous jobs, with little or no protection from hazards or abuse by employers.
"The AFL-CIO is calling upon the Secretary of Labor to conduct a full review of this disturbing increase in workplace fatalities among Hispanic workers and to step up government oversight and enforcement efforts to protect these workers," said Sweeney.
In a statement, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said that progress has been made but the report points to where the department needs to do better.
"Our department needs to do a better job of reaching out more to Hispanic workers and employers," said Chao.
During his recent Senate confirmation hearing, OSHA Administrator John Henshaw responded to a question by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., about reports that OSHA routinely fails to investigate hundreds of immigrants killed on the job.
Henshaw answered that he had read the articles and would look into the matter if confirmed.
by Virginia Foran