In Texas, Dangerous Working Environments Accompany Economic Growth



Austin Personal Injury Lawyers

Austin Personal Injury Lawyers - Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP

Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) October 13, 2014 – Lone Star State workers are 12 percent more likely to be killed on the job than workers doing the same job in another state. More workers die in Texas than in any other state in the country.

“Construction sites in Texas are 22 percent deadlier than the national average. That is not something to be proud of,” said Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury attorney. 

Working conditions are horrific. Worker’s compensation is ineffective. Many workers are improperly classified as independent contractors, and many are illegal immigrants. The shocking fact is that there is no Texas minimum hourly wage, no overtime, no compensation for injuries, and no required safety training or equipment. Many workers must buy their own tools.

What is the employer’s responsibility? What is the government’s responsibility? “The short answer to both appears to be “not much,”” added Schuelke. “Yet the government and employers both take credit for work done by laborers who die on the job at a frantic pace while no one protects them.” 

A free enterprise atmosphere that caters to employers is the more important focus for the government. Regulations can cut into the bottom line, so workers remain unprotected.

“The dead do not have a voice. That is why attorneys do their level best to assist workers hurt on the job. Even though the governor’s office states it takes the safety of employees very seriously, the current death toll belies the words,” Schuelke pointed out. “Even though there are multiple resources for workers and their employers, the working climate in Texas is: don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t report.”

The Dallas Morning News has analyzed workplace data between 2003 and 2012. Texas reported 4,593 deaths (4,014 were forecast). The state had the highest rate of excess deaths among the 10 biggest states (Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Oregon and Wyoming), and 719 of the deaths occurred in specialty construction trades, including foundation, structure, building exterior, building equipment and building finishing contracting.

Falls are the most common cause of death on Texas construction sites. Nearly 300 workers lost their lives to falls over the decade examined by the Dallas Morning News. It is estimated that at least 50 percent of the workers on the average construction site are not documented.

“There is more to this picture than meets the eye,” said Schuelke, “and it is shaped by immigration reform. By classifying workers as non-employees, companies can avoid verifying their immigration status for income tax forms and can illegally pay them under the table.” It is distressing to note that one’s citizenship status may mean the difference between working safe and dying on the job.

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