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SWEAT AND BLOOD. Latinos in the factories. First in a series

September 05, 1993

"Sweat and Blood," a three-part series that begins today, is the result of a six-month study of the health and safety conditions of Latino workers in California's manufacturing center.

The Times found that Latinos, the largest ethnic group in Los Angeles County's industrial work force, were injured and killed with greater frequency than others. Records also showed that factories in Southern California were inspected less often than those in Northern California, even though a majority of the state's manufacturing workers are in the Southland.

More than 150 people were interviewed for the series, including workers, safety experts, doctors and factory owners and managers. Thousands of pages of court records and documents from the Los Angeles County coroner's office, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were reviewed.

The Times investigated all 43 cases between 1988 and 1992 in which workers died in the county as a result of manufacturing accidents. Of the total, 29 were Latino, nine were Anglo, three were Asian-American and two were African-American.

Using information from labor unions, workers, attorneys and court records, The Times also examined 32 incidents in which Latino factory laborers were seriously injured. Those cases shed light on the working conditions of Latinos, the nature of their injuries and the government's often limited oversight of workplace safety.

Also reviewed were computerized records describing all 308 cases between 1991 and 1992 in which state safety officials responded to serious injuries in manufacturing facilities in Los Angeles County. Similar records for Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties were also examined.

State officials, citing privacy laws, would not reveal the names of injured workers in any of the 308 cases. But they did provide data revealing the ethnicity of 78 of the injured workers. Of those, 59--or 76%--had Spanish surnames.

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