Hard work, dangerous living and sometimes big payoffs have long been part of the culture of the American west. From California gold-miners and Texas Rangers to roughnecks who hit it big – and sometimes lost their fingers – working the oil rigs, the region is full of both possibility and peril.
But these days, working construction in states like Texas can be a good way to die while not earning a good living. In fact, according to the Workers Defense Project, a larger number of construction workers are killed on the job in Texas than in any other state, with 10.7 deaths per 10,000 workers. And when construction started to regain steam in 2010, workers in this minimally-regulated state suffered from workplace fatality at twice the rate as those in California, which has a rate of 5.2 deaths per 10,000. These figures can be measured against the broader U.S. rate of 8.8 in that same year. And of course these figures don’t even include the astounding rates of construction injuries and workers’ compensation claims.
One widely publicized incident occurred last year when undocumented roofer Angel Hurtado died at an Austin warehouse site where building had fallen behind schedule. The 42-year-old Hurtado fell 20 feet to a concrete floor, striking his head on a girder during his fall.
Recalling the events of that day and the tragic aftermath for his family, Hurtado’s son Christian grows quiet and sad. He explains that his mother was also employed at the construction site and was present on the day her husband died. In fact, she witnessed the fall itself, and cradled Hurtado’s broken head in her lap after reaching him.
When Christian arrived at the site of the accident, he says that the subcontractor pulled him aside and gave him full assurance that the company would pay for his father’s funeral. “The next day, we never see this guy. He never pick up the phone. We never hear anything from him, and he never called us back,” Christian reports.
According to the Workers Defense Project study, 1 out of every 5 Texas construction workers will require a hospital visit because of injuries on the job. Moreover, Texas is the only state in America that does not require mandatory workers’ compensation, resulting in a situation where hospitals and taxpayers often have to bear the cost when uncovered construction workers are injured.
So with workers and taxpayers losing out in this arrangement, who wins in this twisted Texas system? As we reported in an earlier post on injuries and unlawful employment practices in the construction industry, homebuyers are profiting enormously here, flocking to Texas where that same cheap and under-regulated labor allows them to buy a brand new 5-bedroom home for $160,000. Meanwhile, contractors have been making money hand over fist by exploiting workers from one year to the next.
If you yourself have experienced a work injury and need help recovering workers compensation benefits from the Department of Labor and Industries, contact a attorney at Emery Reddy today for help with your claim.