Houston's burgeoning economy is good for many employees, but unfortunately the area's workplaces are also fraught with danger for some of the most vulnerable workers.
According to recent data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Bayou City has the worst worker safety record in the state — and Texas has the worst safety record in the nation.
The new 62-page report, which lists workplace fatalities and catastrophes (incidents in which three or more workers were hospitalized) around the nation, says that 14 deaths occurred in the Houston area in the last year alone. Of the 14 area workplace deaths that occurred since last October, most were related to construction work, maintenance and repair, often occurring from electrocution or falling from high places.
Texas had highest on-the-job fatality rate with 134 deaths and catastrophes in the last year alone.
Texas had highest on-the-job fatality rate over the last year with 134 deaths and catastrophes. In total, that's 43 more incidents than California and 61 more than Florida during the same period.
OSHA's new report also shows that construction is the industry which Texas and Houston employ more workers per thousand than the rest of the nation. Given that these areas have high numbers of immigrants, this means a large percentage of employees working on construction projects are undocumented workers, something which puts them in a special kind of predicament.
"Often time what happens is employers threaten undocumented immigrants," Secretary-Treasury of the Harris County branch of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations Richard Shaw said in a statement to the Press. "Or they think they're not going to say anything, or will refrain from saying something, so they're at special risk.
"If you look at the rate of people killed in Texas every year, construction is the industry where it's the highest, and it's mostly Hispanic workers who are killed."
Overall, workers in Texas are reported to be significantly more likely to die on the job than those in other states, according to a recent report by the Dallas Morning News. "More workers die here than in any other state," the report concludes. "On average, a Texas worker is 12 percent more likely to be killed on the job than someone doing the same job elsewhere."
That translates to nearly 580 workplace fatalities over 10 years.