An article in a recent issue of the National Safety Council’s Safety and Health Magazine examined the on-the-job risk of injury or death to temporary, or contract, workers. According to the article, the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a contract worker as one who is “employed by one firm but working at the behest of another firm that exercises overall responsibility for the operations at the site.”
The report highlighted BLS statistics that showed that of the 5,190 workplace fatalities in 2016, 856, or 16.5 percent, involved contract employees. Since 2012, contract employee deaths have remained just above 15 percent of total employee deaths at work. The number of contract workers in the country in comparison to regular employees is a bit unclear because of different methods of defining who is a contract worker. But using BLS figures, only about 3.8 percent of the workforce is in contingent, or temporary, jobs. What these statistics highlight is that temporary workers may be at greater risk for injury on the job. The industries where the majority of injuries and fatalities occur for all workers are construction, manufacturing and transportation.
Safety Challenges for Contract Workers
Workplace safety experts have identified various safety barriers that temporary workers face because of the very nature of being contract workers. Unfamiliarity with new workplaces is one of the issues. Not knowing what hazards there might be in a workplace environment can lead to accidents. Other issues that can lead to safety challenges include:
- Employers who don’t treat temp workers the same as their regular employees. One NSC expert quoted in the article said “some employers may assign temp workers more dangerous or highly repetitive tasks to shift their workers’ compensation risk away from their permanent employees.”
- Employers’ changing job assignments of temporary workers without consulting with the workers’ temporary staffing companies. Workers may find themselves performing work they are unfamiliar with that is potentially dangerous.
- A lack of orientation, training and sometimes even necessary protective equipment provided to temp workers.
- The fear some temp workers may feel to speak up for themselves because they are afraid of losing the job or they want to make a good impression to possibly gain a full-time position.
Protecting Yourself as a Temp Worker
Both the NSC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have put initiatives in place, directed at both staffing agencies and employers, to raise awareness and improve safety for temporary workers. However, these well-intended initiatives only go so far—staffing companies and host employers must pay attention to them and be willing to follow them.
Speaking up and protecting yourself as a temporary worker is also key. So what can you do?
Ask questions. When you sign up with a staffing agency, specifically ask the agency how they assure their workers’ safety. Ask about what kind of safety training you will receive from the employer and what to do if you are assigned a potentially dangerous job that you have not been adequately trained to perform. Be sure you have a contact at the staffing agency who you can call to resolve issues if needed. Also, before you begin working with a staffing agency, ask them whether you will be covered under their workers’ compensation insurance should you be injured.
If you’ve been hurt in a workplace accident, our experienced New York work injury attorneys at Kaplan Lawyers PC are here to help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.