Hurt on the Job: Older Latino Workers in Oklahoma

By Cecilia Hernandez-Cromwell for Telemundo Oklahoma (May 22, 2020). See this video news report in Spanish with English subtitles.

Certain jobs have a higher chance of injury than others. If an injury occurs on the job it can change the affected person’s life forever and that’s why it’s important to have a safety plan for difficult times. Accidents happen even in the safest of jobs. That’s why rules and regulations are set in place.

“Health officials are always reminding us how to conduct ourselves in the safest way along with reminding us to wear our protective equipment,” said construction worker Jose Ramirez. Overall, researchers at the University of Southern California showed in a study published in the journal Health Affairs that men ages 18 to 64 are most likely to get hurt at work with an injury rate of 14 per 1,000 workers.

Juan David Loera Rojas came to the United States for a better life, he started on the right path but that journey took a sharp turn when he was injured on the job. He said, “I had multiple fractures in my collar bone, ribs and waist. When you get injured in my line of work it changes your life forever.”

He came to the United States alone but was fortunate he had family in the area. “A cousin of mine moved me to where I needed to be, along with cooking for me,” he said.

Angel Arredondo suffered the same fate, a work injury. During his rehabilitation he was affected by more than just pain. “I lost so much starting with my apartment. And to make it worse, my salary was lowered.”

People mainly see the physical and financial damages but they forget that there is a psychological side to it as well. “Not being able to provide for your family is not a good feeling, this affects the person’s family and adds unneeded stress and irritability. And the worst part is not knowing what is going to happen next,” said therapist, Cecilia Herrera-Leggett.

In moments like this, she added, the best thing to do is find someone to talk to that being family or a professional: “If you can’t talk about what you are feeling then write about it. You need to get those feelings of your chest.”

With time you can almost recuperate to full strength. Along with money one’s strength comes and goes, but nothing feels the same after a work accident.

Juan David said, “I am not going to be able to work like before, I can’t carry the workload I used to; I am very limited on what I can do.”

But some people with physical limitations from an accident risk their lives every day, so they can continue to earn enough money for their families. According to Angel Arredondo,  “Some people have an arm cast or brace, others have knee problems and they are in constant pain, yet they continue to work. And at lunch time they have to take pills or put on an ointment to relax their muscles.”

Counselor Cecilia Herrera-Leggett reminds people about the light at the end of the tunnel, and the outlets that are there to support them on their difficult journey.  “You should look for other options with your family and friends and together you can decide what is best or most viable.”

Age along with health and family problems has forced people to quit or it has led to them being laid off.  “I had a heart surgery and after that I was no longer able to work,” said Jose Vera. He is fortunate he has his pension and his children are willingly sending him money. Everyone that works in a field that has a higher risk of injury should consider looking into plans with their loved ones in case of a workplace injury that can lead to time off or a quicker retirement than expected.

We also want to remind you that if you get hurt at work you have the right to receive help no matter your immigration status and you can receive help through the department of labor or a lawyer.

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.