Factors contributing to ethnic injury disparities in construction industry: a study of perceived safety climate, occupational injuries, and occupational fatalities in the southeastern United States
Welton, Michael David
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Introduction: The construction industry has the highest burden of occupational fatalities in the United States of all industries and Hispanic workers are disproportionately affected. Methods: Perceived safety climate surveys (n=179) were administered in Athens, Georgia (GA), at local construction sites and home improvement stores and data were abstracted from 3,093 death certificates maintained by the Consulate General of Mexico in Atlanta Georgia. Results: Of the 179 individuals who were surveyed, 51 (28%) had a work limiting injury in the previous 3 years and 58 (32%) were Hispanic. The majority of individuals were carpenters or roofers (39%), followed by laborers (22%), painters and dry wall workers (14%), other skilled trades (14%), and supervisors (11%). Hispanic ethnicity (p<0.0001), drinking 2 or more alcoholic beverages per day (p<0.0001), working for a company that does not provide health insurance (p=0.0022), and working for a company with less than 10 employees (p<0.0001) were significantly associated with lower perceived safety climate scores. The majority of the population worked for companies with less than 10 employees and worked in residential construction. Greater perceived safety climate scores were not significantly associated with injury in either Hispanic or non-Hispanic populations. The proportion of Mexican immigrants who died from occupational injuries is higher among all construction workers (SMR=1.31), roofers (SMR=2.32), and carpenters (SMR=2.25) than other Mexican immigrants workers. The construction industry was protective against suicide (aOR = 0.63) and death from natural causes (aOR=0.70). Conclusion: The lower perceived safety climate scores among Hispanic workers indicate that the perception of the importance of safety on the job site is lower among Hispanics construction workers than non-Hispanics construction workers. While this research does not provide evidence that that perceived safety climate is associated with past injury occurrence, this study provides evidence that attention to construction industry injuries is justified across ethnicities, while prioritizing attention to cultural differences. Interventions to reduce occupational injuries and fatalities among Hispanic migrant construction workers should target roofers and carpenters.
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