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November 15, 2018
Above-average fatalities reported for Hispanic/Latino workers

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) recently reported that after a general decline between 2007 and 2013, the rate of occupational fatalities in the state steadily increased through 2016 and has surpassed the national rate (which has also been increasing since 2013) since 2015. Generally, deaths in the state among workers 65 years of age and older lead all other age groups, followed by deaths among workers aged 16 to 17. Among racial/ethnic groups, fatalities to workers identified as Hispanic or Latino were “persistently higher” when compared to other racial/ethnic groups.

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The injury and fatality rates for Hispanic/Latino workers are notable in light of North Carolina’s good overall record for worker safety. The United Health Foundation’s 2017 America’s Heath Rankings report ranked North Carolina as having the 10th lowest rate of occupational fatalities among all states. In 2017, North Carolina experienced a rate of 3.9 deaths per 100,000 workers in the construction, manufacturing, trade, transportation, utilities, and professional and business service industry sectors compared to a national average of 4.3 deaths per 100,000 workers.

“Hispanic/Latino workers are getting injured and killed on the job at much higher rates than any other racial/ethnic groups, despite overall lower trends of occupational fatalities,” wrote Gregory Dang in the NCDHHS’s EpiNotes Newsletter.

National trend also

This trend has also been apparent nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Hispanic/Latino workers accounted for 19 percent of all fatal occupational injuries in the United States in 2015, reports the BLS. Fatal injuries incurred by Hispanic/Latino workers were 12 percent higher in 2015 than in the previous year, rising to 903 fatalities from 804 in 2014. The fatal injury rate also increased to 4.0 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers in 2015 from 3.7 per 100,000 FTE workers in 2014. In 2015, Hispanic/Latino workers had a higher percentage—23 percent—of fatal injuries due to falls, slips, or trips compared to 17 percent for all workers.

Nearly half of all deaths in 2015 in the agricultural sector—86 of 180—were incurred by Hispanics/Latinos. The other disproportionately high percentage of fatalities for this group was in construction trades—243 of 694 total deaths nationwide.

Rate highest among foreign-born workers

The BLS defines Hispanic/Latino workers as those who were either born in the United States or born in other countries. In 2015, foreign-born Hispanic/Latino workers accounted for 605 fatal work injuries, or 67 percent, of the 903 overall fatal work injuries to all Hispanic/Latino workers. Foreign-born Hispanics or Latinos also accounted for nearly two-thirds (605 fatalities) of the 943 total foreign-born worker fatalities. Most foreign-born Hispanics who incurred fatal work injuries were born in Mexico (68 percent, or 411 fatalities). Following Mexico, Central America accounted for the second-highest share of fatalities among Hispanics/Latinos at 17 percent. The Caribbean and South America each shared 7 percent, and Europe was less than 1 percent.

“Additional research and surveillance work should be done to address the unique needs of [Hispanic/Latino workers] and other vulnerable working populations,” wrote Dang.

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