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How Many Construction Workers Die in Texas Every Year?

Advocates for workers' rights say that Texas leads the nation in construction deaths. Some believe the majority of accidents, and even deaths, go unreported due to the legal status of many construction workers.

One of the few studies on the topic is from the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think-tank in Austin. In 2007, the CPPP found 142 documented deaths of construction workers in Texas. The second state with the most deaths was California with 81.

A 2013 study done by UT and the Workers Defense Project confirms that Texas led the nation in construction deaths as of 2010. Sixty percent of Texas workers surveyed for that study said they never received basic job safety training.

Christian Hurtado was 21 years-old and saving for college when his father fell at a construction site and died on the job. "And after that incident," says Hurtado, "all [of] those dreams got gone out [sic] because I had to step up for the family."

Hurtado's college savings were used to pay for his father's end of life expenses.

Credit Joy Diaz, KUT News
Christian Hurtado lost his father to a work-related accident. He says his father fell to his death at a construction site.

It's been 11 years. But, Hurtado says his father's death still haunts him. He says even talking about it feels like "pouring salt on an open wound."

However, three years ago, Hurtado started speaking about the working conditions that, he believes, lead to his father's death. And, he started doing so in public at rallies in honor of the fallen construction workers.

On Wednesday, Hurtado was one of the speakers at one of those rallies at the Capitol building in Austin.

A few hundred construction workers from around the state came in solidarity.

Emily Timm is with the Workers Defense Project, one of the organizers of Wednesday's rally. Timm says deaths are a concern. But, so are the injuries. Timm says even with the very limited data she's gathered, she's found "that one out of every five construction workers is seriously injured on the job requiring medial attention."

Many are never able to work again.

Worker's Compensation Insurance is not required in Texas.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.