According to a recent report from EnergyWire: "Hispanic workers in the U.S. oil and gas industry bear a disproportionate share of workplace injuries, as gaps in health insurance and language issues put the workforce in greater danger of catastrophic accidents." Among their findings:
- In 2011 (the most recent data available), more than 25 percent of workers injured in oil and gas extraction workers were Hispanic, even though Hispanic workers make up only 7 percent of the industry's workforce.
- A former rig hand who is Hispanic reported that he was required to perform tasks without adequate training.
- The same former rig hand, who speaks English, said some of his co-workers are not fluent English speakers but some training is offered only in English.
- There is pressure from management to complete jobs quickly, even if safety is compromised.
- At a "know-your-rights" workshop for workers sponsored by Wyoming's Equality State Policy Center last year, more than half of attendees were Hispanic. The Center has learned that oil and gas companies urge employees not to report injuries in exchange for getting paid during sick leave. According to EnergyWire, "Later, the workers are forced out of their jobs."
We need strong health and safety rules for the oil and gas industry, strong enforcement, and training and education in languages and formats that make it 100% accessible to every worker. Oil and gas companies need to have zero tolerance for accidents and put mandatory policies in place that will accomplish that goal, never putting profit ahead of the health and safety of workers--or anyone else. Workers should be encouraged to take all necessary precautions and to report any health, safety or environmental hazards or problems as soon as they are identified without any risks to their employment status.