Extensive research by The Dallas Morning News reports that a worker in Texas is 12% more likely to die on the job than in any other state. The newspaper reached their concluding statistic by analyzing federal workplace data. A driving factor behind the relatively high figure is the prevalence of construction injuries, one of the state’s most popular industries.
The research used in the report shows that a construction worker in Texas is 22% more likely to be killed on site than their counterparts anywhere else in the United States. According to The Dallas Morning News, there are a number of reasons behind this, including the use of untrained and undocumented workers, the difficulty of forming a union in the state, and lax workplace safety. Additionally, Texas has no state safety inspection agency and relies on the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to monitor workplace conditions. Unfortunately, given the size of the construction industry in the U.S., the agency is often unable to properly ensure that workplace safety standards are being met.
The situation is further complicated due to the use of second-tier subcontractors. While payroll and safety protections must be provided by first-tier subcontractors, or peopl hired by the general contractor to perform tasks on a site, any individuals hired by the first-tier subcontractors are virtually unprotected. Moreover, the fine for violations that involve second-tier subcontractors is a mere $200.
In response to The Dallas Morning News’ article, the press secretary for Governor Rick Perry (R) stated that the state of Texas takes workplace safety seriously. He also added that the state offers a variety of incentives and programs to train employers and employees to protect themselves while on the job. However, statistics show that Texas has had over 580 workplace deaths over the past decade, casting doubt on the effectiveness of those programs.