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Lost in translation

They are known as sound barriers or sound walls. The enormous slabs of precast concrete are erected along California highways to try to contain road noise. Powerful cranes lift the barriers into place, where they are secured by construction workers.

We read recently of a construction accident involving the placement of 15,000-pound sound walls along an interstate. A father of two was crushed by one of the barriers. A critical factor in what is being called a "preventable accident": a language barrier. The worker killed spoke only Spanish; the crane operator did not speak Spanish and neither did the foreman. "How did they communicate what had to be done?" asked an investigator with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Perhaps as dangerous as the language barrier was the worker's inexperience. The Cuban immigrant had never been to the Florida construction site before and had never delivered sound barriers before.

OSHA is looking into whether the man received any training for what was clearly a dangerous task.

The OSHA investigator noted that "12 Latino workers die every week while doing the hardest and most dangerous jobs in America." What is lost in translation can cost workers dearly. Sometimes it even costs them their lives, as in this tragedy, but more often it costs them lost days of work due to injuries that might require hospitalization, recuperation, surgery and more.

Being denied workers' compensation benefits in these situations adds a financial injury to the physical injury already sustained on the job. At English Lloyd & Armenta, one of our partners, Juan Manuel Armenta, is a Spanish speaking attorney devoted to helping Coachella Valley clients in personal injury cases as well as in California workers' compensation appeals.

Please see our Construction Accidents page to learn more about how we can help you.

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