Statistics show that many workers face risks on the job, especially in industries such as construction, transportation and others. For temp workers, the risks are even higher than for regular employees, as reported recently in the National Safety Council’s Safety + Health magazine.

According to data for 2016 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, of 5,190 workplace deaths that year, 856 were of contracted, or temporary, employees, which is 16.5%. Additionally, temporary worker fatalities have accounted for over 15% of worker deaths since 2012. The BLS doesn’t keep statistics for contract worker injuries, but based on the fatality percentages, injury numbers are also likely to be high.

Reasons Temp Workers Face Risks

Experts interviewed for the article point to several possible factors, including unfamiliarity with new workplaces and their possible dangers. They go on to say, also, that sometimes host employers see temp employees as “outside” the regular workforce so they …

  • Don’t provide temps proper orientation or safety training
  • Don’t give temporary workers the same protective equipment regular workers get
  • Assign temp workers more dangerous tasks to shift workers’ comp liability away from them
  • Change temp worker assignments to jobs they may not be comfortable performing.

In addition to these host-employer oversights and laxities, temporary employees themselves sometimes increase their own risk of injury through their actions, or lack of actions. Temp workers might not speak up when they should, such as when they are asked to take on potentially dangerous tasks they aren’t trained to perform.

Their reasons for not speaking up might be because they…

  • Are fearful of losing the job if they don’t cooperate
  • Want to impress the employer in the hopes of getting a permanent position
  • Have different cultural perspectives on safety or speaking up to authority.

Some workers may simply not be interested in learning about safety at their work sites because of the temporary nature of their jobs. If they aren’t going to be around very long, it may seem like too much trouble.

What Temp Workers Can Do to Protect Themselves

If you’re a temporary worker, it’s unacceptable that you should have to risk injury or death to earn a paycheck and feed your family.  Even if an employer is lax in their safety focus when it comes to temp workers, there are things you should do to protect yourself.

When signing on with a staffing agency, ask your contact there how the agency looks out for its workers’ safety. If the staffing agency doesn’t have a safety focus, find one that does. Also, when signing on with an agency, find out whether it carries workers’ compensation insurance and whether you will be covered under it should you be injured.

Ask about safety training at the host employer’s worksite. And keep the phone number of your agency contact with you while at work. Should you have a safety concern or feel you are being asked to do a job you aren’t comfortable performing, call your staffing agency contact for guidance.