More workers die in Texas than in any other state, according to an in-depth analysis of federal workplace data by The Dallas Morning News(8.16.14). The News’ finding revealed a Texas worker is, on average, 12 percent more likely to die on the job than a worker doing the same job in any other state, including New York. Texas’s construction sites were found to be 22 percent deadlier than the national average. According to The Dallas Morning News, the reasons behind these findings vary, but factors include the use of undocumented laborers; little investment in safety equipment, training and inspections; and a “Wild West culture.”
In several construction trades, the Lone Star State had the nation’s worst fatality rate. Falling was reported to be the most common cause of death. In Texas, many construction workers are treated as independent contractors instead of employees. This cuts payroll costs as there is then no minimum hourly wage, no overtime, no compensation for on-the-job injuries, and no required safety training or provided safety equipment.
In contrast, there are a number of Labor Law statutes in New York that specifically protect construction workers. New York imposes statutory liability on property owners and contractors for a number of accidents that occur on construction sites. Even when an injured employee ignores safety rules at a job site, the liability likely will fall to the contractor or owner.
New York Labor Law Section 200 requires construction employers to provide a safe work environment; Section 240, also known as the “Scaffold Law” relates to accidents involving falls and falling objects; and Section 241 outlines the requirements for how areas of construction should be controlled. These laws, which are sometimes referred to as the “safe place to work statutes,” apply to all workers on both union and non-union job sites. Even undocumented workers may be entitled to compensation when injured while working on a construction site.
Any compensation an injured construction worker receives under these statues is separate from the compensation received under to New York’s workers’ compensation law.
Another problem possibly contributing to the high worker fatality rate in Texas is that the state is one of the most difficult states to organize a union in. States with weaker labor unions generally have a higher fatality rate, reported the News. New York remains strong in organized labor. The State of the Unions 2013, a profile of organized labor in New York City, New York State and the United States, placed New York as first in union density among the nation’s fifty states, with a unionization rate more than double the U.S. average in 2012-13.
The Dallas Morning News report cited is “Death on the Job.”