Immigrant worker deaths declining, feds say

Immigrant worker deaths declining, feds say
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The number of immigrant workers who die on the job is declining, though the rate is still higher than for the average American worker, according to a new government report.

The Department of Labor’s census on fatal occupational injuries released Thursday found that the number of Hispanic workers who died on the job declined by 3 percent in 2014, even as employment ticked up.

But the number of foreign-born Hispanics, which experts say is a better measure of the immigrant workforce, who died on the job declined by more than 7 percent, to 503, last year, according to the preliminary data.

At the same time, the number of deaths across the entire U.S. workforce remained stable. 

Labor activists suggest the improving workplace environments for immigrants is a result of pressure they have put on companies in recent years.

“There’s been a lot of attention drawn to this issue, because of how bad it got,” said Rebecca Reindel, senior safety and health specialist at the AFL-CIO.

Still, the number of worker deaths remains higher among immigrants than the rest of the U.S. workforce.

Many of these Hispanic worker deaths are concentrated in the construction, agriculture, and oil and gas industries, Reindel said.

“It’s not like the problem is going away,” Reindel said. “Hispanic workers are still more vulnerable on the job for a variety of reasons. Often, they’re placed in the more dangerous jobs. They may not know they have rights to speak up about their working conditions.”

Hispanic workers were killed at a rate of a 3.6 out of 100,000 workers in 2014. That's down from 3.9 the year before but still higher than the rate of 3.3 deaths across the rest of the workforce.

“While we were gratified by that drop, the number is still unacceptably high, and it is clear that there is still much more hard work to do,” Labor Secretary Tom Perez said.