Temporary Employees are Entitled to Safe Workplaces, Too
April 14, 2021
According to estimates from market and consumer data company Statista, there were approximately 16 million temporary employees in the United States in 2019. There is evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that temporary employment rates are on the upswing and will continue to grow. While temporary or “gig” work affords millions of Americans with an array of contract and freelance employment opportunities, these job positions also come with an increased risk for severe injuries, some of which can lead to permanent disabilities or death.
We often use the terms “temporary workers” and “gig workers” interchangeably to describe independent contractors who employers typically hire to fill in during periods of staffing losses or busy seasons. These employers are called “host employers” during the worker’s term of employment. Temporary employees work in all different industries, like:
- Health care
- Technical, IT, scientific
- Office: clerical and administrative
- Industrial (e.g. construction)
According reported by ProPublica, temporary workers actually have double the risk of sustaining severe injuries on the job, such as lacerations, punctures, fractures, and crushing incidents. Other common severe injuries that temporary workers sustain (especially those who work in construction, which is the largest growing job sector among independent contractors) include amputations of fingers, toes, or limbs, toxic chemical exposure, burns from fire, explosions, or electrocutions, eye injuries and loss of vision, paralysis and other spinal cord injuries, and more. One of the biggest obstacles that temporary and gig workers face when it comes to limiting preventable workplace injuries is the confusion that surrounds exactly which entity is responsible for keeping them safe.
Who is Responsible for Protecting Gig Workers?
There are generally two entities that are responsible for keeping gig workers safe and ensuring their unimpeded access to a healthful workplace. The first entity is the staffing agency that finds a job placement for the worker. The staffing agency often functions as a “middleman” between employers and independent contractors. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), both staffing agencies and host employers have several legal duties when it comes to the health and safety of gig workers. They have these legal obligations regardless of whether temporary employees work fulltime, part-time, or under contract. Here are a few examples of the key health and safety responsibilities that staffing agencies and employers have:
- Staffing agencies must provide general safety training to temporary workers employed in particularly dangerous industries, like the construction industry. Once the employee is at his or her job, the host employer must then initiate job-specific safety and hazard training
- It is crucial to maintain open, clear communication between the host employer and the staffing agency
- The staffing agency must verify the safety of each workplace they consider sending workers to before completing any job placements
- Staffing agencies must confirm that all host employers have fulfilled their duties to provide a safe and healthful workplace before and during job placement of temporary workers
As you can see, temporary workers are equally entitled to a safe workplace as any other kind of workers. The main difference between gig workers and traditional employees is that two entities (the host employer and the staffing agency) are jointly responsible for protecting gig workers, whereas only one entity – the employer – is responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace to traditional employees.
Injured? Find a Workers’ Compensation Attorney to Help
Although it is not difficult to protect employees from known workplace hazards and to reduce preventable fatal and nonfatal injury rates, plenty of employers fail to follow federal guidelines. Although employers can be penalized for breaking the law, the penalty usually comes far too late for a worker whose injuries could have been prevented through safe and responsible work practices.
If you are a temporary or gig worker who sustained injuries due to negligence on behalf of a staffing agency and/or a host employer, you are eligible to file for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to injured workers. To learn more about filing a workers’ compensation claim to start receiving benefits, contact a representative at our firm now.
Additionally, you may have a third party claim if another party’s negligence caused your injury. To learn more about your rights, contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer at Galfand Berger.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Individuals Since 1947
Galfand Berger LLP has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.