Abdón Urrutia remembers the impact. He was 16 feet off the ground on a commercial office construction project in Tysons Corner, tied in with a harness, stripping the metal molds used to pour concrete off the walls after they had set. Suddenly, one of the molds tipped over into his back, knocking him against protruding rebar and a wooden handrail. He yelled out in pain, and his brother rushed over to help him to the ground, as his legs started getting numb.
“I was laying down on the floor for two hours trying to figure out how to get up,” recalled Urrutia, 23, nearly six months after the accident.
According to Urrutia’s account of the story — which three colleagues, including his brother, corroborated in affidavits prepared by a labor union — what followed was a stark reminder of the risks, to health and life, that Latinos are disproportionately exposed to in the workplace. Latinos still make up a much larger portion of workers in dangerous jobs like construction, and haven’t benefited as much from the economy-wide changes that have made the workplace safer for for everyone else.
The most glaring sign of the problem, experts say, is the worker fatality rate: The overall number of on the job-deaths reached an all-time low of 3.2 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2013, while the Latino rate inched up again to 3.8 from 3.7.
On the day of his injury, after Urrutia lifted himself up the floor, he says, the staff at the company where he...
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 firstname.lastname@example.org have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.