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Labor report: Hispanic workplace deaths decline

  • Story Highlights
  • Fatal injury rate for Hispanics per 100,000 decreased from 5.3 deaths to 4
  • The 2008 death rates for blacks and whites were 3.5 and 3.7, respectively
  • The economy likely had a role in the lower fatality numbers in 2008
  • Mexican-born workers accounted for 42% of foreign-born worker deaths in 2008
By Mariano Castillo
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(CNN) -- Hispanic workers continue to suffer fatal work injuries at higher rates than others, but the gap is closing, according to federal statistics.

Hispanic workers continue to be "exposed to the most dangerous jobs," an immigrants rights advocate says.

Workplace deaths involving Hispanics peaked in 2006, when 990 fatal injuries were reported. But that number has declined since then, including a steep 17 percent drop in 2008 compared with the year before, from 937 to 774 deaths, according to the most recent Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, released Thursday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On-the-job fatalities dropped across the board 10 percent in 2008, to a total of 5,071, according to the report.

Since records began being collected in 1992, statistics have shown that Hispanic workers are killed in the workplace at a higher rate than other ethnic or racial groups.

In 2001, the disparity was the most striking. Hispanics suffered fatal injuries at a rate of 6 out of 100,000 workers that year, while the rates for white and black workers were 4.2 and 3.8, respectively.

The statistics released Thursday show the gap is closing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics began utilizing a new method of calculating rates in 2008, which makes comparisons with earlier rates imperfect, but the trend remains clear.

Between 2006 and 2008, the fatal injury rate for Hispanics decreased from a rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 equivalent full-time workers to a rate of 4. In comparison, the 2008 rates for blacks and whites were 3.5 and 3.7 respectively.

The economy likely had a role in the lower fatality numbers in 2008, a factor that calls into question whether the new figures reflect permanent changes, Teresa Molina, president of the board of directors of Sunflower Community Action in Wichita, Kansas, told CNN.

"I think we will see an increase when activity picks up," she said.

Despite the favorable statistics for Hispanics, problems in the workplace, especially for immigrants, remain common, Molina said.

"I wish I could say they weren't being exposed to the most dangerous jobs, but unfortunately it is still happening," she said.

The biggest drop in workplace deaths in 2008 was among immigrants working in the United States. Foreign-born Hispanic worker deaths fell 24 percent compared with the previous year, while U.S.-born Hispanic fatal injuries fell 3 percent.

Mexican-born workers accounted for 42 percent of foreign-born-worker deaths -- the most of any group -- in 2008, the report says. In 2007, Mexicans represented 44 percent of foreign-born worker deaths.

All About U.S. National EconomyJobs and LaborU.S. Bureau of Labor StatisticsImmigration Policy

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