Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Immigrant Worker Fatalities: The Facts

Pop Quiz: What is the leading cause of traumatic workplace death for foreign born workers in the United States?

a) Transportation accidents
b) Workplace violence
c) Falls to a lower elevation
d) Caught in machinery

(*Answer is at the bottom)

If you got this wrong, read on. (Read on even if you got it right)

One out of every two new labor market entrants from 1996 to 2001 was a worker born outside the United States, and they are dying in the workplace at a much higher rate than native born workers.

This is no surprise to anyone that follows this issue, but an article entitled Foreign-born workers: trends in fatal occupational injuries, 1996–2001 in the June issue of the Monthly Labor Review, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has a wealth of detail about the problem.
As the share of foreign-born employment has increased, so has the share of fatal occupational injuries to foreign-born workers. Yet, while the share of foreign-born employment increased by 22 percent from 1996 to 20003 the share of fatal occupational injuries for this population increased by 43 percent. This increase in fatal work injuries among foreign-born workers occurred at a time when the overall number of fatal occupational injuries to U.S. workers declined by 5 percent.

As a result, the fatality rate for foreign-born workers has not mirrored the improvement seen in the overall fatality rate over this period. In 2001, the fatality rate for all U.S. workers decreased to a series low of 4.3 per 100,000 workers, but the fatality rate for foreign-born workers recorded a series high of 5.7 per 100,000 workers.
Other interesting facts include:
  • Mexican-born-worker fatalities alone accounted for 40 percent (1,915) of all fatalities to foreignborn workers, and fatal work injuries to Mexican-born workers
    were uniquely observed to trend upward over the duration of the 6-year period under analysis, increasing from a low of 241 fatalities in 1996 to 422 in 2001.

  • Overall, foreign-born workers experienced different patterns in fatality rates than native-born workers in certain occupational groups. Foreign-born workers in sales occupations and handler, equipment cleaner, helper, and laborer occupations consistently experienced a higher annual fatality rate than their native-born counterparts, although both groups experienced overall declining fatality rates during the 6-year period.

  • Private construction, retail trade, and transportation and public utilities were the three industries in which fatally injured foreign-born workers were most frequently employed. Nearly one in four fatally-injured foreign-born workers was employed in the construction industry. Another one in three was employed in either retail trade or transportation and public utilities.

  • Overall, the share of fatal work injuries to foreign-born workers grew in those industries in which their share of employment also grew. However, in particular industries, there were notable disparities between foreign-born workers’ share
    of employment and share of fatal work injuries. Whereas foreign-born workers’ share of total agriculture, forestry, and fishing employment varied little around an average of 28 percent, their share of fatal work injuries rose by 60 percent, from one in
    five agriculture, forestry, and fishing fatalities in 1996 to one in three in 2001. In manufacturing, foreign-born workers’ share of employment increased by 22 percent, from 13 percent in 1996 to 16 percent in 2001, but their share of workplace fatalities
    increased by 46 percent over the same period, from 9 percent to 14 percent. In other industries, specifically construction, transportation and public utilities, and retail trade, foreign-born workers’ share of fatalities was consistently higher than their share of employment over the 6-year period.

  • Workplace homicide was the leading manner of traumatic work-place death for foreign-born workers, accounting for one out of every four fatal injuries. The second and third most frequent types of fatal events involving foreign-born workers were falls to a lower level (15 percent) and highway incidents (14 percent).

    The 1,166 workplace homicides involving foreign-born workers represented about a quarter of the total recorded for all U.S. workers over the study period. One contributing factor in this high incidence of work-related homicide is the fact that the foreign-born population is overwhelmingly concentrated in metropolitan areas,14 which have three times the violent crime rate of rural areas. Workplace homicide was the primary fatal event for workers born in India, Cuba, Korea, and Vietnam.

  • Gender. The three most frequent fatal events for male foreign-born workers were homicides (23 percent), falls to lower level (16 percent), and highway incidents (14 percent). Among female workers, nearly half of all workplace fatalities were due
    to homicide.
*Correct Answer: Workplace Violence