Temporary workers face higher risk of on-the-job injury

Sep 10 2014

One of the fastest-growing employment opportunities in the U.S. come from temporary job placement agencies. According to the Labor Department, there are 2.7 million temp workers in the U.S., the most in the nation’s history. Since the official end of the Great Recession, one-fifth of all new job growth has comprised of temp work, many of which are blue-collar jobs in factories and warehouses. At any given factory, about 5 percent of the workforce is temporary workers.

This can lead to a variety of job issues, not the least of which is the risk for injury. According to ProPublica research, temp workers face a significantly greater risk of on-the-job injuries than permanent workers. Unfortunately, temp workers have double the chance to get severe injuries on the job, such as crushing accidents, lacerations, fractures and punctures. In one state surveyed by ProPublica, temp workers were three times as likely to require amputation after a work injury.

Currently temp work is lightly regulated. Combined with a tendency for companies to allow temp workers to perform dangerous tasks with little or no training, it is no wonder that blue collar temp workers are at risk. One study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that temp construction workers were twice as likely to suffer an injury than a full-time employee doing the same job. The study also noted that temp workers missed more job time after an injury than full time employees, as well.

Companies are using temp workers to cut costs

There is little mystery as to why factories and manufacturers are increasingly relying on temp labor for dangerous jobs. The more workers are injured on the job, the higher the company’s insurance premiums will be. By hiring temp laborers for risky jobs, many factories and manufacturers are able to avoid these costs. Temp workers also often must pay more for health insurance and do not receive benefits from the company they are performing labor for. Rarely are supervisory or management jobs obtained through temp agencies, and those jobs tend to have less risk of injury at work than manual labor such as that performed by many temp workers.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, it is not uncommon for temp workers to receive inadequate training, even on dangerous equipment. OSHA has also discovered some temp agencies deduct the cost of safety gear from employees’ paychecks, which in turn incentivizes workers to forego the use of safety equipment.

Workers’ compensation claims

Job accidents are an unfortunate risk for many temporary workers. However, workers’ compensation may allow even temporary workers to collect payment for lost wages and medical bills. However, this area of the law can be complicated, for example if a job site claims that a worker is an independent contractor, even if he or she is treated more like an employee.

Workers who have been injured on the job should consult with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss their legal options and to obtain the help they need when moving forward after a work injury.