Contractors Face Highest Fatality Risks on the Job
January 7, 2020
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), contract workers are some of the most vulnerable employees in the workplace. There has been a 50% increase in contractor fatalities since 2011, with approximately 800 deaths occurring annually. Despite the wealth of data indicating how at risk contractors are, sufficient safety improvements have yet to be made – and hardworking men and women are experiencing permanent or fatal injuries as a result.
The BLS defines contractors, or contracted, temporary workers, as being: “employed by one firm but working at the behest of another firm that exercises overall responsibility for the operations at the site.” The agency estimates that approximately 6 million people are employed contractually.
Data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicates that contractors regularly face a variety of job-related hazards, such as:
- Inadequate workplace safety and health training,
- A lack of communication regarding expectations and job duties from staffing agencies and/or host employers, and:
- Placement into repetitive and/or dangerous positions
And those are not the only hazards contractors face. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), host employers often give temporary workers the most dangerous jobs in order to limit risks to the company’s permanent employees. Host employers may also reassign temporary workers new jobs without first getting approval from staffing agencies. The council stresses the importance of treating temporary workers the same as all other employees, which not only includes giving them comprehensive training but also providing personal protective equipment (or PPE) when necessary.
Every year since 2012, contractors have accounted for at least 15% of all occupational deaths. Both staffing agencies and host employers are legally responsible for the safety and health of temporary workers (OSHA considers them “joint employers”), but too often they fail to comply with OSHA’s standards. Temporary workers are not only vulnerable because of the numerous employment risks that they face, but also because they may be less likely to complain or speak up for fear of losing their jobs. Some temporary jobs can turn into something permanent, so contractors may be wary of reporting workplace safety or health concerns.
Tips for Improving Contractor Safety in the Workplace
Luckily, there are many effective control methods that help limit preventable injuries and deaths among contractors. OSHA recommends that staffing agencies and host employers take the following steps to better protect contractors on the job:
- Staffing agencies should provide general safety and health training to the contractor; the host employer should provide safety and health training specifically tailored to the job at hand,
- Open communication between the joint employers,
- Staffing agencies must first inquire about the conditions of a workplace (making sure it is safe, etc.) before sending contractors there,
- Staffing agencies are obligated to inquire – and verify – that the host employer has fulfilled its duties for maintaining a safe workplace, and:
- Host employers should treat temporary employees the same as any other worker in regard to training and safety and health standards
Contractors are prone to experiencing a range of injuries while performing job duties. Some of the most common ones are broken bones, knee and ankle injuries, electrocution, eye injuries, burns, and neck, shoulder, or back injuries. When a temporary worker is injured, he or she may consider filing a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to individuals injured in the course of their employment. If you are a temporary worker and have questions about injuries you sustained at a host employer’s job site, someone at our firm can help.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represent Individuals Injured at Work
Galfand Berger has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading our attorneys serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.