Fueled in large part by a booming oil industry, the Texas construction economy is hot. But that success story may come with a dark side. According to an investigative series in the Texas Tribune newspaper, worker safety is a low priority in the state's construction industry—and workers are paying the price for the state's progress (see: " Hurting for Work: After Catastrophic Fall, the Fight of One Worker's Life," by Jay Root).
On June 30, the Tribune focused on one example: the case of construction worker Santiago Arias, crippled on the job in 2006. After having lost an eye in a construction injury, Arias was back on the job for the same employer, helping to demolish a concrete roof. A 20-foot fall left Arias paralyzed from the chest down. The contractor had no workers' comp insurance—because Texas law does not require it.
Writes the Tribune: "Safety experts and advocates for injured workers say the scenario Arias' case presents is hardly unique: An unskilled laborer, often without valid work papers, gets injured doing a dangerous and dirty job. The contractor may have a history of workplace accidents and working under various company names. There is no state-provided workers' compensation insurance or private equivalent because, unlike every other state, Texas doesn't require it. Taxpayers and charities end up paying for most of the worker's medical care. The worker and his or her family see their income and quality of life decimated. But for the contractor, business continues as usual, and another eager laborer, often an undocumented immigrant, is standing in line to take the injured worker's place."