Construction work is dangerous work. But construction work in Texas is more dangerous than it should be. There are numerous factors that lead to the higher than expected death toll from construction workplace accidents, ranging from no requirement for workers’ compensation to the increasing use of independent contractors, which greatly reduces the potential liability to the general contractor.
A detailed study by the Dallas Morning News found that there were 580 more construction deaths in Texas over a 10-year period than would have been expected. Compared to Texas, California, which is similar in size and population, experienced 1,200 fewer construction deaths.
What is notable from the story is that the fatal workplace accidents are not distributed evenly. While the booming oil and gas industry has matched much of the construction industry for activity, the fatality rate in that industry came in at 62 percent below average. This meant 49 fewer deaths than would have been expected.
For the construction industry, 242 more workers died, or nearly half of all of the excess deaths Texas suffered.
Much of the “success” of the Texas building boom has been at the expense of the workers. One study estimates that 50 percent of the construction workers are unauthorized immigrants.
Employers exploit the lack of education, language skills and the need for a job. When a worker is killed or injured, they count on those factors to protect them from a lawsuit. While being unemployed is bad, being dead is far worse.
In Texas, workers must aggressively protect their own rights when they are injured. They may have to work with an attorney, as the process is complex and those responsible for their injuries may not be willing to provide accurate information or advice.
The Dallas Morning News, “Death on the Job,” James Gordon, August 16, 2014